Yelp v Talia Jane: Entitled Millennial or starving ex-employee?

  • 23 February 2016
Employees of the online review site Yelp watch as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks at the new East Coast headquarters of the tech company on October 26, 2011 Image copyright Getty Images

A young woman who was fired after publishing a scathing letter to the CEO of her company has become the subject of both praise and blistering criticism.

Up until last week, 25-year-old Talia Jane worked in the San Francisco Bay area for Eat24, a food delivery service owned by ratings giant Yelp.

Her essay details a variety of grievances against her employer. She writes that low wages and high rent mean she can barely afford public transport to work, and she can no longer afford to heat her flat.

But there was a swift backlash to Jane's letter, with some branding Jane as a "whiny millennial" who chose to live well above her means in a city known for its high cost of living.

Others noted that despite its low wages, Jane's job had many perks most low-wage positions don't offer, like full health benefits and snacks on the job.

A few hours after Jane's post went live on the internet, she was fired from her position.

However, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman tweeted that the decision to let her go was not a result of her public letter. He did acknowledge the high cost of living in San Francisco - and pointed out that Yelp will be opening support centres in places where the cost of living is lower.

In a statement provided to Business Insider, Yelp declined to comment on the details of Jane's dismissal, but did say they viewed the letter as a "real, personal narrative about what it's like to live in the Bay Area... and an important example of freedom of speech".

Supporters of Talia Jane took to Twitter to decry Yelp and other tech companies paying low wages in big cities.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppleman

"The thing about that Yelp open letter that blows my mind? Call centres were paying $12 an hour 20 years ago. Yelp should be ashamed," wrote @Karnythia.

"This is about more than Talia Jane, or Yelp, or Silicon Valley. It's about people among us who think it's actually OK to let people starve," wrote @publictransport .

But some of Jane's most vocal critics are those in her own age group - other "millennials" who say she lacks both the work ethic and humility required to make it in a tough economy.

They also criticised Jane for capitalising on her viral fame - since her dismissal, Jane added links to her Paypal, Venmo and Square Cash accounts to her post, and a GoFundMe page with a $3,000 goal titled "Help a Yelper EAT" has been set up in her name.

But sympathy has come in short supply from many on the Internet who said they also experienced hard times after college, but chose a more traditional route to success - namely, unglamorous jobs with long hours, years of hard work, and moving back home or living with roommates.

Writer Stefanie Williams, 29, addressed Jane personally in Business Insider, explaining that Jane's attempt to raise awareness about her plight may have backfired. She writes: "[you] displayed your complete lack of work ethic in public by asking for handouts because you refuse to actually do work at that ripe old age of 25.

"You wanted to write memes? Darling, you just became one."

Blog by Brenna Cammeron

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