A Yelp employee wrote a public Medium post addressed to Yelp’s CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman—she was fired not long after.
Talia Jane’s story is relatable to many. She works in Yelp/Eat24’s customer service for minimum wage, making only $8.15 an hour after taxes. Living in San Francisco, 80 percent of her income goes to rent, so she can’t afford to fix her car or turn on her heater or even buy groceries. She lives off of a ten pound bag of rice and food in the office kitchen.
Her point is essentially that a company in San Francisco paying minimum wage ($12.25) is not paying a livable wage: “Every single one of my coworkers is struggling. 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.”
The ridiculously high cost of living in San Francisco makes the situation even more dire for individuals such as Talia, considering it is 62 percent higher than the U.S. average.
Talia alleges she was let go from the company only days after her public letter. She tweeted that, “Google says my work email address doesn't exist, which means [I] have officially been fired from Yelp/Eat24 for writing this.”
google says my work email address doesn't exist, which means i have officially been fired from Yelp/Eat24 for writing this.— Lady Murderface (@itsa_talia) February 20, 2016
After her post gained much traction on social media, Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppelman responded to the letter on Twitter, acknowledging the difficult circumstances surrounding the Bay Area’s standard of living and claiming he had nothing to do with firing Talia.
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
While many people sympathized with Talia’s plight and thought she was right to point out issues with the minimum wage, others took a less empathetic approach.
In a response to her post that received over 1,500 likes, a Medium user pointed out that, “[Talia] blame(s) this all on the company that employs [her] and offers [her] benefits far beyond what most other places offer for an entry level position that does NOT require a college degree, literally a position that an 18 year old can fill.”
Talia does note that she receives full health coverage from her position, but claims she cannot afford the co-pays.
The complexity of the situation is interesting. One could argue for an entry-level position that requires minimal skill, a minimum wage is adequate. Others could say that if that wage does not translate into decent living conditions, companies should automatically be paying more.
The blame seems to lie less with Yelp, specifically, and more with the general conditions surrounding the astronomical cost of living in San Francisco and the Bay Area, as well as federal and state laws it terms of the minimum wage.
Still, people working minimum wage jobs should be able to afford groceries and other human necessities without giving up 80 percent of their paycheck to rent, regardless of where they’re located.
Banner / Thumbnail : Reuters