Economy

This Yelp Employee Wrote A Letter To Her CEO About Low Pay. Then They Fired Her.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman

Less than two hours after writing an open letter to Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman complaining about low pay, customer service representative Talia Jane learned she was fired.

In a Medium post, the 25 year old blasted the company for not paying customer service staff livable wages.

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 post went viral and Jane’s work email was disabled two hours after it was published, Recode reported. Her Twitter account was trending on Twitter in San Francisco, a region suffering from severe housing crisis, one that Jane poignantly highlights in her letter.

I got paid yesterday ($733.24, bi-weekly) but I have to save as much of that as possible to pay my rent ($1245) for my apartment that’s 30 miles away from work because it was the cheapest place I could find that had access to the train, which costs me $5.65 one way to get to work. That’s $11.30 a day, by the way. I make $8.15 an hour after taxes.

I also have to pay my gas and electric bill. Last month it was $120. According to the [infographic] on PG&E’s website, that cost was because I used my heater. I’ve since stopped using my heater. Have you ever slept fully clothed under several blankets just so you don’t get a cold and have to miss work? Have you ever drank a liter of water before going to bed so you could fall asleep without waking up a few hours later with stomach pains because the last time you ate was at work? I woke up today with stomach pains. I made myself a bowl of rice.

Stoppelman tweeted that he read Jane’s letter and agreed with her about San Francisco’s exorbitantly high standard of living costs, but that her firing had nothing to do with him or the letter.

Jane’s story echoes sentiments heard around the country over the need for a higher minimum wage. Several states have taken action by approving minimum wages higher than the $7.25 federal minimum wage. California is one of those states; its $10 minimum hourly wage went into effect January 1. But that bump isn’t keeping pace with the state’s housing crisis, which is most apparent in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley.

Home prices have surged in San Francisco thanks, in part, to the booming home-sharing business spurred by Airbnb rentals. Coupled with increase in wage disparity, many Californians struggle to make ends meet. According to a Silicon Valley Competitiveness and Innovation Project’s housing report, only one in four workers in San Jose and 40 percent of residents can afford to live in the area.

“Folks who have been living here for a long time are being priced out,” Janine Kaiser, who is a manager on the project, told the San Jose Mercury News. “There are sweeping ramifications for residents in terms of quality of life. And this represents a key challenge for businesses.”

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding Jane’s firing, her letter may serve as an impetus for Yelp and other Silicon Valley tech companies to openly deal with the growing housing and wage disparities affecting their workers.

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