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Yelp Employee Fired After Writing Scathing Critique of the Company

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Staff at the restaurant review and delivery sites can't afford to buy groceries.

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Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

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.

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.

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.