Yelp is on the defense after a Bay Area-based employee published a scathing condemnation of the company on Medium. In the story titled "An Open Letter To My CEO," Talia Jane writes about her experience working in the consumer support department for the restaurant review community and its food ordering subsidiary, Eat24. In the letter, Jane claims that she and "every single one" of her coworkers is living paycheck-to-paycheck and can't afford to purchase groceries.
They're taking side jobs, they're living at home. One of them started a GoFundMe because she couldn't pay her rent. She ended up leaving the company and moving east, somewhere the minimum wage could double as a living wage. Another wrote on those neat whiteboards we've got on every floor begging for help because he was bound to be homeless in two weeks. Fortunately, someone helped him out. At least, I think they did. I actually haven't seen him in the past few months. Do you think he's okay? Another guy who got hired, and ultimately let go, was undoubtedly homeless. He brought a big bag with him and stocked up on all those snacks you make sure are on every floor (except on the weekends when the customer support team is working, because we're what makes Eat24 24-hours, 7 days a week but the team who comes to stock up those snacks in the early hours during my shift are only there Mondays through Fridays, excluding holidays.
Jane says that approximately 80 percent of her income goes to rent for an apartment that's 30 miles from her office. "Your employee for your food delivery app that you spent $300 million to buy can't afford to buy food," she states. In addition to a low income, Jane claims that the stress has resulted in high employee turnover in her department. It took her more than a month to receive any proper customer support training.
Since the story went live, Jane alleges on Twitter that she's been fired from her position at Yelp and Eat24 because it "violated terms of conduct." She's awaiting information regarding a severance package.
worth noting I wasn't informed to remove the post or stop talking. was only told I'd receive an email for severance. no email as of yet.— Lady Murderface (@itsa_talia) February 20, 2016
my manager and Natalia in HR (convenient!) said the letter violated terms of conduct & is why I was let go. explain? https://t.co/uDAiXiTqYb— Lady Murderface (@itsa_talia) February 20, 2016
In response to an inquiry by Eater, Jane says she doesn't know what she'll do next. "I'm still reeling." Meanwhile, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelmann has responded to Jane's letter on Twitter, stating that the issue has more to do with the cost of living in San Francisco.
1/5 Late last night I read Talia's medium contribution and want to acknowledge her point that the cost of living in SF is far too high.— Jeremy Stoppelman (@jeremys) February 20, 2016
2/5 I have been focused on this issue, backing anti-NIMBY group SFBARF and speaking out frequently about the need to lower cost of housing.— Jeremy Stoppelman (@jeremys) February 20, 2016
3/5 I've not been personally involved in Talia being let go and it was not because she posted a Medium letter directed at me.— Jeremy Stoppelman (@jeremys) February 20, 2016
4/5 Two sides to every HR story so Twitter army please put down the pitchforks. The reality of such a high Bay Area cost of living is...— Jeremy Stoppelman (@jeremys) February 20, 2016
5/5 entry level jobs migrate to where costs of living are lower. Have already announced we are growing EAT24 support in AZ for this reason.— Jeremy Stoppelman (@jeremys) February 20, 2016
The irony of accusations has yet to make an impression on Yelp's social media team, which continues to feature some tone-deaf posts.
In a statement to Re/Code, a Yelp rep writes:
"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."
This isn't the first time employees have taken Yelp to task for sketchy labor practices. Last July, Eat24 delivery drivers filed a $5 million lawsuit against the company, alleging that it withheld tips. In response to the complaint, Yelp pushed the blame onto delivery contractor Sidecar.
Update: In a statement to Eater, Yelp confirms that Jane has worked for Eat24 since August of 2015. In an email, a spokesman for the company writes:
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. Her Medium post is 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.