Yelpers Suing Review Site Over "Unpaid Wages"

Categories: Controversy, Tech

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A group of four Yelpers has filed a class action lawsuit in California against the crowdsourced review site, on the grounds that they are unpaid employees who haven't been properly compensated for their work. As Eater and TechDirt report, the plaintiffs are seeking compensation for the reviews they've provided to Yelp over the years, claiming that Yelp makes money on advertising and that the plaintiffs were "an indispensable and integral part of the success of the Defendant's business."

See also: Slate's Bewildering Attacks on Restaurant Criticism
Watch: Yelp Reviews Read by Professional Actors
Check Out Wired's Excellent "Should I Trust This Yelp Review?" Flowchart

From the lawsuit:

"The named plaintiffs, and persons similarly situated, are persons who each worked a substantial number of hours for the Defendant over a number of years, and were not paid a single cent for their work. The work they performed -- writing, researching, editing, lodging reviews, upgrading prior reviews, and generally promoting the site -- is central to the Defendant's business model as a publisher."

The plantiffs are asking for "just compensation of wages, benefits, and reimbursement for reviews they created."

For its part, Yelp points out that the site is a free service and its users submit reviews voluntarily. Here's the official statement:

"This is a textbook example of a frivolous lawsuit; it is unfortunate the court has to waste its time adjudicating it and we will seek to have it dismissed. The argument that voluntarily using a free service equates to an employment relationship is completely without merit, unsupported by law and contradicted by the dozens of websites like Yelp that consumers use to help one another."

But in an era where more writers are fighting against being asked to write for exposure, aka for free, the lawsuit -- frivolous as it may be -- brings up an interesting debate. Professional writers deserve to be paid for their work, but does the average Yelper, or even a Yelp Elite with more responsibility and visibility, qualify as a professional writer with the commensurate level of experience and training that comes with the designation? Or do you become a professional writer when you stop voluntarily writing for free?

[via Eater, TechDirt]

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10 comments
sonya209
sonya209

I'm sorry, but this lawsuit is just too funny.  There're some very amusing passages in that class action document.  I recommend users give it a read, or at least a skim.

It does appear that Yelp was fostering a cult-like environment, though.  And it sucks that they barred users from posting reviews.

However, it still seems ridiculous to me that anyone would Expect to get paid to write a damn restaurant review for Yelp.  When you click on the "Write a Review" tab, the directions say     "1. Search for Business  2. Select the Business  3. Write your Review!"  There is no "4. Get Paid!"

I Especially dislike the comparison to slavery in Point 7, Section 1 of the document.  People ought to stop and think a while longer before choosing to compare an economic arrangement to slavery.  Seriously, is Voluntarily writing unpaid restaurant reviews what people with money and leisure time call "slavery"?  Give me a break!

Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis

I think I read once in The SF Gate the YELP employees can drink all the beer they wish during their shift. I KNOW! give all the Yelpers FREE BEER

Quest Henkart
Quest Henkart

Ugh. Why stop at yelp? Facebook also makes money from user activity as does virtually every other social website

Dominique Moore
Dominique Moore

Blaming Yelp for a small business closing down is like blaming a florist for a divorce.

Marine Macerot
Marine Macerot

Yelp is lying. believe me...Yelp is NOT free.And has some "knukleheads"benefits of Yelps poison...some substainable little buisnesses are ruined.

Jody KW
Jody KW

How stupid can one be?

Joe Flores
Joe Flores

Knuckleheads. Yelp is always throwing events for its Yelpers. I've been to a handful of events. I love my job. Best benefits ever.

Jeff Fisher
Jeff Fisher

Yet another reason why Yelpers are the worst.

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