Two Microsoft employees were told to "take more smoke breaks" when they complained to their bosses about the psychological toll of the murder films and child pornography they had to watch for their jobs on the Online Safety Team, a lawsuit has alleged.

Damning allegations

Henry Soto and Greg Blaubert, the two plaintiffs, said that Microsoft's Online Safety Team enjoyed "God like " status, having access to "literally any customer's communications history at their behest". The customer's history was used to screen Microsoft user's devices for child pornography and evidence of other heinous crimes.

Soto and Blauert allege that they suffered "severe psychological trauma" from watching the most "twisted videos on the internet". The plaintiffs are suing Microsoft for the permanent psychological injuries sustained from their work. Furthermore, Soto and Blauert claim that they were denied compensation for the psychological suffering they endured while employed by Microsoft.

Soto, who was involuntarily transferred to the Microsoft Online Safety Team in 2008, said: " I was not informed prior to the transfer as to the full extent of my new position. I was told that I would be reviewing terms of use violations. A policy decreed that we were not allowed to transfer from our new positions or at least eighteen months".

Soon, Soto discovered the true nature of his new position with Microsoft. "Quickly, I discovered that I would be sharing traumatic information on crime rings and child pornography with the authorities. The job required me to witness brutality, murder, sexual assaults, videos of humans dying and images and videos designed to titillate the most depraved minds".

Soto's lawyer said that his client was diagnosed with PTSD: "He suffered from an internal screening of these disturbing images which translated into crippling anxiety and irritability", said Soto's lawyer. After viewing one particularly disturbing video, Soto began having auditory hallucinations. Soto claims that he desired to continue with his work but needed psychological help.

However, Microsoft failed to provide adequate care.

A fundamental failure

Similarly, Greg Blauert stated that he suffered PTSD symptoms after viewing thousands of "indescribable images and videos". Blauert added that, if an employee broke down at work, their employers encouraged them to "take a cigarette break or go home early".

Years into their positions, psychologists diagnosed Soto and Blauert with PTSD and recommended that they should both take medical leave. Both men applied for worker's compensation but both were allegedly declined. The denial of both men's psychological afflictions is symptomatic of a society that continues to neglect and stigmatise issues of mental health.

Neither Soto or Blauert has returned to work.