Woman Fired by Yelp After Making Viral Post About Low Wages

February 20th 2016

Kylie Cheung

Early Saturday morning, Buzzfeed reported that Talia Jane, a former employee at Yelp's Eat 24 food ordering app, was apparently fired for directing a series of tweets at Yelp's CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, and posting on Medium about not being able to afford groceries, rent, and transportation due to the low wages paid by the company.

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Jane opened up about moving to San Francisco for a job in customer service with Eat 24. Jane accepted the job hoping to work her way up to a position with the company's media team, while sharing the cost of rent with co-workers in the expensive city. Things didn't work out how Jane planned.

With their $12.25 (about $8.15 accounting for tax) per-hour pay rates, Jane found that most of her coworkers still lived at home with family. She also learned that she was unlikely to earn a promotion or a pay raise within the year. On top of this, Jane found her transportation costs reaching $200 per-month, because she had to move into an apartment 30 miles from Yelp's San Francisco offices in order to find an affordable apartment.

In order to make ends meet, Jane said she drastically cut back on groceries. In her viral Medium post entitled "An Open Letter to My CEO," she writes:

I haven’t bought groceries since I started this job. Not because I’m lazy, but because I got this ten pound bag of rice before I moved here and my meals at home (including the one I’m having as I write this) consist, by and large, of that. Because I can’t afford to buy groceries. Bread is a luxury to me, even though you’ve got a whole fridge full of it on the 8th floor. But we’re not allowed to take any of that home because it’s for at-work eating. Of which I do a lot. Because 80 percent of my income goes to paying my rent. Isn’t that ironic? Your employee for your food delivery app that you spent $300 million to buy can’t afford to buy food. That’s gotta be a little ironic, right?

Prior to the Medium post, Jane also tweeted directly to Stoppleman about not even being able to turn on her heater:

“I wanted [Stoppelman] to understand that I wasn’t some little, annoying fly buzzing around his head,” she told BuzzFeed News. “I wanted him to understand that I’m not some obnoxious idiot who thinks it’s funny to harass the CEO on Twitter. I’m someone who has concerns and is reaching out, hoping that he can do something. I was sitting there and thinking, ‘I hope he sees this and I hope my CEO listens and hears me,’ and then it started to dawn on me: I wonder if I’ll get fired for saying this out loud?”

After publishing the Medium post at about 3 p.m. on Friday, Jane was soon fired and told by Human Resources that "the letter and what [she] wrote violated Yelp’s terms of conduct."

In a letter to Gawker, Jane explained that she found out she was fired when an email account linked to her job was deactivated:

So I called my manager and told him I got fired. He didn’t know what I was talking about and said he’d call me back after he looked into it. He called me back a few minutes later and told me someone from HR was there with him.”

Yelp's CEO has since responded via Twitter to clarify that he was not "personally involved" in the decision to fire Jane, but that he agreed with Jane's assertion that high rents in San Francisco were an issue. Stoppelman also discussed how Eat 24 would be expanding and opening up offices in Arizona, where standard of living is cheaper, and the same customer service jobs would be offered there.

A spokesperson at Yelp similarly told Buzzfeed News:

“We do not comment on personnel issues. However, we did agree with many of the points in Ms. Jane’s post and we viewed it as her real, personal narrative about what it’s like to live in the Bay Area. Most importantly, it’s an important example of freedom of speech. We agree with her comments about the high costs of living in San Francisco, which is why we announced in December that we are expanding our Eat24 customer support team into our Phoenix office where will pay the same wage.

Jane's personal account on Medium, as well as her interview with Buzzfeed, delved into how her experiences were hardly isolated, and her coworkers who were not living at home with family had launched a GoFundMe or even gone homeless due to high rent and low wages.

The Fight For $15

Minimum Wage has become an key issue during the Democratic presidential primary. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has called for raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has suggested the rate be raised to $12 per hour.

Social Media Responds

Jane's Medium Post lit up Twitter, and inspired a broad range of response.

Some thought Jane's post came off as "entitled."

Others saw the post as a symptom of a larger problem that demands political action.

Meanwhile, Jane is still looking for answers about why she lost her job: