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Yelp Employee Posts Open Letter About Cost Of Living And Low Wages, Gets Fired (modernreaders.com) 1092

whoever57 writes: Talia Jane was employed by Yelp in San Francisco but after posting in an open letter to Yelp's CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, that her after tax income of $8.15 was insufficient to provide basic necessities like heating, food, etc., she discovered that she had been fired. How did she discover? Her work email stopped working. Even her boss did not know what had happened. Stoppelman denies having a hand in her firing, making the claim "(There are) two sides to every HR story so Twitter army please put down the pitchforks," replying to the criticism. He didn't personally turn off her email, perhaps he did not even make the decision to fire her, but as the person who ultimately sets the culture and policies of the company, his claim to not be directly responsible is unconvincing.
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Yelp Employee Posts Open Letter About Cost Of Living And Low Wages, Gets Fired

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  • by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedy@tp[ ]co.org ['no-' in gap]> on Sunday February 21, 2016 @07:52PM (#51554529) Homepage

    I truly hope none of us here will express amazement that someone who criticized their employer, and blamed them for what are essentially her own poor life choices, got fired.

    This is how the real world works, jr. You are not owed, or entitled, to shit.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 21, 2016 @08:00PM (#51554581)

      Quite to the contrary, she deserves a living wage because her parents and teachers told her that she was special. It absolutely can't have anything to do with the insane taxes or the brutal rents caused by the same people who voted themselves a raise on the taxpayer's dime. Don't like it? Leave!

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 21, 2016 @08:22PM (#51554747)

        Contrary to THAT,

        She deserves a living wage, because if greedy imbeciles don't stop violating the social contract, they're not going to like it much when the masses turn to anarchy.

        Pay them now, or pay them later. Either way, nobody's going to get away with making the downtrodden a slave race for long.

        • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @08:56PM (#51554949)

          She deserves a living wage, because if greedy imbeciles don't stop violating the social contract ...

          If she was making $8.15/hr in SF, she is an idiot. I live in the Bay Area, and we can't even hire no-skill warehouse clerks for less than $15/hr. The SF area is way past full employment, and nearly every company has vacancies that they are struggling to fill.

          My impression from skimming TFA is that this was a telecommuting position, which means the pay rate is disconnected from geography, and she is basically competing for wages with people in Mumbai, while living in one of the world's most expensive cities. So what does she expect? If she wants to get paid more, she has to make herself worth more.

    • by BarbaraHudson ( 3785311 ) <barbarahudsononline AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday February 21, 2016 @08:01PM (#51554583) Journal

      So everyone who pickets their employer because they want to move work out of the country should also be fired? Everyone who publicly criticizes their employer for unsafe practices that endanger the public should get fired? Or, in this case, anyone who publicly points out that wages paid are too low to survive in San Francisco should get fired?

      Go move to Qatar - they're looking for slave-wage laborers who are ready to die in droves for a pittance, because if they complain they get thrown in jail and kicked out with no wages. Sounds like your kind of place.

      • by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedy@tp[ ]co.org ['no-' in gap]> on Sunday February 21, 2016 @08:20PM (#51554743) Homepage

        You can be forgiven in thinking that your examples match what we're talking about here, as the summary didn't actually link anything. For reference: https://medium.com/@taliajane/... [medium.com]

        The "Open Letter" wasn't discussing offshoring, nor unsafe business practices. It was nothing more than entitled whining, and not even very inspired at that. It certainly wasn't what I'd expect from an english major, short of it's verbosity. But then, she never said she finished college, so I guess I might be expecting too much.

        I especially like how she's now begging for someone to employ her. As if a whining entitled employee is right at the top of every employer's wish list.

        • Thanks for providing the link. Given how expensive it is in the Bay Area, I thought that it was a reasonable request that she was making, but after reading that, it was indeed whining.

          If she came there to be close to her dad, why doesn't she live w/ him - that would save her on the rent, and then she'd have enough for everything else she described in that letter.

      • by Parafilmus ( 107866 ) on Monday February 22, 2016 @04:08AM (#51556817) Homepage

        anyone who publicly points out that wages paid are too low to survive in San Francisco should get fired?

        Its not what she said. Its how she said it.

        Ms Jane's blog post included a link to her bosses' home address and a picture of his house. She shared it on twitter using the pseudonym Murderface.

        I don't want to dismiss her complaints. Her complaints are serious and Yelp would be foolish to ignore them.

        But if you were in charge of HR in this scenario, would you decide to keep an employee who uses the name Murderface and posts the bosses home address on her blog?

    • Hell, I don't even bad-mouth my ex-employers in public, and there's one for which I still maintain a seething hatred. It's just unprofessional to do so; and, barring whistleblowing of illegal activities, pretty much always out-of-line and will always work out badly.

      Also, if you major in english literature, and have no better marketable skill, you're probably not going to be able to get a job good enough to support yourself unless you go all the way to PhD. and score a professorship at Cal or Stanford.

    • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @09:26PM (#51555097)

      The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (signed by US and most countries on earth) would beg to differ.

      http://www.un.org/en/universal... [un.org]

  • by Bite The Pillow ( 3087109 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @07:57PM (#51554561)

    This has been covered elsewhere, and never with so much horseshit bias. No editorialization should be needed for news, which is why no one likes Bennet Hasslehoff either.

    Didn't we reject this nonsense about the time Glenn Beck refused to deny raping and murdering that girl?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 21, 2016 @07:59PM (#51554573)

    And I am sure it had nothing to do with her getting alcohol delivered to her while at work [archive.is] or bragging about making sexual jokes to the companies twitter account [imgur.com]. It's either quite a coincidence or she knew she was in trouble and wrote the letter to try and make the company look worse.

  • Some perspective (Score:4, Insightful)

    by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @08:04PM (#51554605)
    Why is anyone making barely above minimum wage trying to live in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. without even getting a roommate to split the rent? Also, the low temperature doesn't get below freezing so there's no need to ever run a heater. Yes, that means you'll probably want an additional heavy blanket to sleep under, but you're not going to die.
    • Re:Some perspective (Score:5, Informative)

      by creimer ( 824291 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @08:30PM (#51554795) Homepage

      Also, the low temperature doesn't get below freezing so there's no need to ever run a heater.

      I live in San Jose and work in Palo Alto. I have to be at the bus stop at 6AM to take the express bus and be at work at 7AM. We had a few mornings where the temperature was 30 degrees. Most of the time the early morning temperature is 40 to 50 degrees. On those nights, I'm running the heater in addition to the extra blankets.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nemyst ( 1383049 )
      You can die from temperatures well above freezing, you know that right?
    • by unimacs ( 597299 )
      She provides some details about where she lives. It's about 30 miles from where she works and it's the cheapest place she could find that had access to the train. She's quit using the heater but in general you want to keep a place no colder than 50 or 55 degrees or you'll run into problems with condensation (moisture damage).

      The larger question is what sort of minimum standard of living should working full time get you. Further she seems to contend that this job requires some level of skill and training
    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      Why is anyone making barely above minimum wage trying to live in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. without even getting a roommate to split the rent?

      If you had read the original blog post, you'd know that she did try, and she found out that all of her coworkers were living with their parents because they couldn't afford rent even when splitting it. BTW, she wasn't making above minimum wage. According to the original article, she was making $12.25, which is San Francisco's minimu

  • Medical Issue (Score:5, Informative)

    by ronaldbeal ( 4188783 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @08:08PM (#51554637)
    This is a known medical condition :SMACSS Social Media Assisted Career Suicide Syndrome. Researchers are still searching for a cure!
    • Well, it also shows that the open door policy at most companies is just HR bullshit.
      • Re:Medical Issue (Score:4, Insightful)

        by orlanz ( 882574 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @08:42PM (#51554883)

        The open door policies of ALL companies is bullshit. It doesn't mean what people think it means. The best it gets is, "We will openly listen and TRY to address your criticism." Most people think that also means the company won't be insulted or won't fire them or won't impact their career. This is false. Somewhere in that machine, there is a cog that will feel insulted and will seek redress. The open door just slaps a name on the offender. Someone who goes through that open door is really trying to help the company at their own expense. If they want something personal, they should choose someone they trust, and have a closed door conversation.

  • by Press2ToContinue ( 2424598 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @08:14PM (#51554687)

    Thanks for that scoop /. !!

  • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @08:16PM (#51554707) Homepage
    The person is making $10 per hour (before taxes) and working in San Francisco. That's a bad combination right there. I wouldn't work in San Francisco unless I was making $30+ per hour.
  • by Irate Engineer ( 2814313 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @08:19PM (#51554735)

    Talia Jane was actually fired 4 years ago, but they forgot to stop her paychecks and email. They just "fixed the glitch".

    Her red Swingline was also confiscated.

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @08:22PM (#51554753)

    I wish we were responding to her actual letter, rather than your portrayal of her letter, and your spin on the situation.

    I'm going to respond to her letter, rather than to you.

    ===

    Starting wages for her position at Yelp are nearly $10/hour over minimum wage. Assuming she worked a full 40 hour week, she was making a minimum of $35,360/year.

    That yields, given California and federal tax rates:

    $680.00 = Weekly Gross Pay
    $086.59 = Federal Withholding
    $042.16 = Social Security
    $009.86 = Medicare
    $017.79 = California
    $006.12 = SDI

    $517.48 = Net Pay

    $26,908.96/year gross income

    Accept her "80% goes for rent" number as fact. That yields:

    $21527.168 / year
    = $1793.93 / month

    This is a quite high rent, and implies she's living alone, with no roommates. We'll get back to that.

    $5,381.79 = non-rent disposable income/year
    $448.48 / month
    $103.49/week

    This is low, but it's livable. She does not qualify for SNAP (food stamps), even after income deductions: she is not below 200% of the federal poverty level. In other words: 30% of people live on less than that.

    Let's revisit the rent.

    A ForRent.com search (not the best site, but representative) shows 6 apartments in Emeryville -- a nice area, near Berkeley, but across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, for less than $800/month. All of them near public transportation; 2 of them have pools.

    That's without taking a roommate. So she could have halved her monthly rent, if she was willing to live somewhere *not actually in San Francisco*.

    That's another $993.93/month in her pocket...
    = $229.36/week
    + $103.49/week
    = $332.85/week ...which covers everything she complains about in her letter, plus adds some spending money. She'd have more if she split the rent on a more expensive apartment with a roommate.

    I'm not feeling very sympathetic right now.”

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 21, 2016 @09:08PM (#51555019)

      She states in her original post that she lives far enough out in the East bay that her daily commute via public transit is $5+ each way. $10/day * 5 days a week * 4 weeks comes to at least $200 a month for transportation alone. Your rental search may have turned up a few $800/month apartments but generally those are either reserved for low income, or get you a small walk-in-closet sized bedroom in a house with 5+ roommates. Most listings on those sites are outdated and no longer available the day after they're posted and have 20-30 people fighting over them. Typical rent in Emeryville is about $1400 for a small studio, increasing by at least $100 annually. I just moved from there, precisely because it's that insane. It's pretty much impossible to find anything unless you're an exec or engineer making six figures. Another option is Oakland, but anywhere in Oakland you're looking at drug dealers and homeless heckling you as soon as you get near public transportation, and weekly shootings near your apartment. Bay area is hell on earth unless you're among the privileged six-figure crowd. #formerengineer

    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @09:10PM (#51555027) Homepage
      I don't quite know how you did your search, but I just did the same and found just one apartment for less than $900/mo ($785 to be exact), and it's located in East Oakland, which is not a place I'd recommend. That apartment also has income restrictions, so she may not even be eligible (the site doesn't list restrictions for single occupancy).

      For apartments actually in Emeryville, you're looking at closer to $2-3k/mo, which is pretty damn close to the $1800/mo estimate, even perhaps with a roommate since two bedroom apartments are more expensive. If you have to work in SF, you're looking at over an hour commute each way, public transportation or not. On top of that, you have to be able to move around in Emeryville and, like most cities in the US, that pretty much requires a car. I've tried to do without in Emeryville: getting through your day without one is a nightmare, and I was living very close to my workplace at the time. Shops are often not on bus routes, especially grocery stores and pharmacies. There are very few places to eat out at within walking distance, assuming you even have the money to do so.

      The long and short of it is that Oakland has a lot of bad neighborhoods, Emeryville is basically SF's extended shopping district (some even just say Emeryville is SF's Ikea because the only one in the area is there) and so super car-focused, and Berkeley is expensive and even further to commute from. Your options are limited, and the commute sucks. SF is one of the worst places to be when it comes to working on low wages, and companies like Yelp (who absolutely do not need to be in SF) should take that into account.
      • Bay Area Blues (Score:4, Interesting)

        by unixisc ( 2429386 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @10:05PM (#51555287)

        This is very true. I understand why in the 90s, companies chose to be there - 80% of the world's VCs were there, and so that was where companies got started. Plus if you were a semiconductor or software company, usually the people you needed would be more likely found in the Santa Clara Valley than anywhere else.

        After leaving the Bay Area and returning there on a visit after 10 years, I just couldn't recognize the place. Most of the tech companies that could be seen from the Bayshore Freeway in the 90s and even early 2000s were gone. The Microcenter near the AMC Theater in Santa Clara, which could be seen from the same freeway, had been replaced by a Walmart. Unlike previously, where the big offices used to be that of various tech companies, like the Intels, the Suns and so on, now it was mainly the consulting companies - KPMG, Accenture, et al.

        I know that a whole bunch of the geek crowd w/ goatees love loitering in San Francisco to be in 'The City', but still, this fetish of basing their companies there totally escapes me. Particularly a company like Yelp, that could easily have set up shop anywhere else in the country.

    • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @11:54PM (#51555887) Homepage Journal

      Starting wages for her position at Yelp are nearly $10/hour over minimum wage. Assuming she worked a full 40 hour week, she was making a minimum of $35,360/year.

      According to her letter, she was making $8.15 per hour after taxes, which comes to about ten bucks before taxes. Another article said that it was actually $12.25 per hour, which is the SF minimum wage, not $10 above it. Either way, unless those numbers are just outright fabrications, she was not making $10 per hour over minimum wage.

      Accept her "80% goes for rent" number as fact. That yields:

      $21527.168 / year
      = $1793.93 / month

      This is a quite high rent, and implies she's living alone, with no roommates. We'll get back to that.

      Her letter also gives her actual rent at $1245 per month. You started from a wrong assumption, and all your math from there on down is wrong proportionally.

      A ForRent.com search (not the best site, but representative) shows 6 apartments in Emeryville -- a nice area, near Berkeley, but across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco, for less than $800/month. All of them near public transportation; 2 of them have pools.

      I see nothing under $1600/month in Emeryville. I do see two in Oakland in that price range. Either way, I'm assuming she got a two-bedroom apartment with the intent to find a roommate, but then was unable to find one because everybody else on her team was living with a parent. That's certainly what the letter implied. And the problem is, once you've signed a lease, you're kind of stuck with it. And at $12.25 per hour, you can't exactly stay in a hotel until you can find a place, because even the worst rathole of a hotel in the Bay Area is likely to cost more than $330 per week.

  • by h33t l4x0r ( 4107715 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @08:26PM (#51554777)
    I would have found a way to supplement my income. I see people selling Yelp 'reputation management' services all the time, being an inside /(wo)?man/ on that would be profitable indeed.
  • by drolli ( 522659 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @08:27PM (#51554779) Journal

    In my contract it is forbidden that i discuss my salary with anybody, especially in public in connection with my employer.

    • by rekoil ( 168689 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @08:50PM (#51554915)

      Enforcing such a clause is illegal if your company is subject to the NRLA (hint: most US companies are): http://www.npr.org/2014/04/13/... [npr.org]

    • by Sir Holo ( 531007 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @10:56PM (#51555587)

      In my contract it is forbidden that i discuss my salary with anybody, especially in public in connection with my employer.

      Anyone can put an unenforceable clause in a Contract.

      The clause you mention sounds quite illegal. If in the US, it certainly is (see NRLA). IANAL

      My many European friends frequently express dismay at Americans' weird urge to hide their salary. In much of Europe, everybody knows. If an American works for the State of California, everybody knows, by law; just visit the website. I myself have experienced a very similar Retaliation, which is why I am nominally familiar with the law in the area.

      So, I once noted to my managers at The Aerospace Corporation (in El Segundo, CA) [aerospace.org] that my salary was incommensurate with my experience level. The response? "That's unethical [to know someone else's salary]." My reply, "I did two hours' work on a project for a junior staff member. He reverse-calculated my salary from his monthly budget report, and then threw it in my face (rather than saying 'Thank you for charging only two hours to solve my otherwise-intractable problem'). I did not pry."

      And yet, my managers at The Aerospace Corporation (in El Segundo, CA) [aerospace.org] Retaliated against me for the complaint, rather 'having a talk' with the jerk who I had helped.

      Well, of course, within a day or two, I used my data-analysis skills to reverse-calculate everyone's salary who had worked on my own projects – which were many – because customers loved me for always delivering—I had to farm stuff out to spend my budgets out by fiscal EOY. It's called good Project Management. Or, to the managers at The Aerospace Corporation (in El Segundo, CA) [aerospace.org], it is called punishing an over-performer due to envy of that staff-members early and dramatic success in bringing in money.

      /RantOff

  • by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @08:55PM (#51554943)

    This article could be an interesting one to use to model different moderation models. There is a real mix of conflicting moderation so far with insightful mixed with flame bait and over rated mixed with interesting.

    Could be a good example to work with putting in a "contentious" filter.

    • by Cow Jones ( 615566 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @09:16PM (#51555051)

      Please be very careful when trying to "fix" moderation on Slashdot. This is one of the features that work reasonably well, compared to other sites. There's always room for improvement, but there are dozens of more rewarding fixes and changes than the moderation system.

      This site is already a technological anachronism; we stay for the comments and the discussion. If that breaks down because of half-assed fixes to the moderation system, it's good night.

      Just my 2 cents.

      • Agree you need to be careful. But I was thinking something like a different colour for the bar or something like that if there are opposite moderating. Or maybe a little picture of some scales. Something to identify that this particular post is splitting moderation rather than just being a straight troll.

  • yelp sucks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 21, 2016 @09:08PM (#51555021)

    as a small business owner i can tell you all yelp is a disgusting piece of shit, worse than facebook, all they want is money for basically not removing you from any and all search results, they have no interest in helping consumers find what theyre looking for.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @10:05PM (#51555289)

    .... I never read my company e-mail.

  • by CanEHdian ( 1098955 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @10:08PM (#51555301)

    If you're going to San Francisco
    Be sure to have some money in the bank
    If you're going to San Francisco
    You're going to meet some large expenses there

    For those who come to San Francisco
    Payin' the rent will be a worry there
    In the streets of San Francisco
    Young people, grey showing in their hair

    All across the nation
    Come see that abberation
    People in trouble
    There's a whole generation
    With really no explanation
    People in trouble
    People in trouble

    For those who come to San Francisco
    Payin' the rent will be a worry there
    In the streets of San Francisco
    Young people, grey showing in their hair

  • Yelp? (Score:4, Funny)

    by bestweasel ( 773758 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @10:52PM (#51555567)

    TIL why they're called Yelp. It's the noise they like their employees to make.

  • by Outtascope ( 972222 ) on Sunday February 21, 2016 @11:16PM (#51555669)
    ... that she got fired from Yelp for posting an unflattering review?

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