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Yelp employee behind open letter to CEO is fired

When it comes to workplace perks, it’s hard to beat the tech industry. Glassdoor’s top places to work prominently feature firms from Silicon Valley and Silicon Alley, boasting free lunches, dog-friendly offices, rooftop bars, and highly competitive pay. But according to one Yelp employee, that utopian environment is nothing more than a myth — one that she’s never enjoyed during her entire tenure at the Internet company. In fact, writes Talia Jane in an open letter to Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, she’s just about living in poverty, incapable of even buying groceries. And now, she’s also jobless — Jane was fired on Friday just hours after her post hit the Internet.

In a letter published on Friday via Medium, Jane details the financial distress that has accompanied her position on the customer support team at Yelp. It’s a telling insight into the discrepancies between the lives of customer service representatives at tech companies and business and engineering folks with the same employer — sure, the company is the same, but sometimes, it seems like it can feel like a whole different world.

According to Jane’s open letter, her bi-weekly paycheck came out to just $733.24 — representing her pay of $8.15 an hour post-taxes. Her San Francisco rent ate up $1,245 each month, and her daily public transportation costs came out to $11.30. This, Jane said, left little to no money available to buy food or any other basic necessities like heating.

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She’s not alone in her plight, Jane says. “Every single one of my coworkers is struggling,” she wrote in her Medium post. “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. Another wrote on those neat whiteboards we’ve got on every floor begging for help because he was bound to be homeless in two weeks.”

In a later update to her letter, Jane confirmed her termination at Yelp, writing, “This was entirely unplanned (but I guess not completely unexpected?) but any help until I find new employment would be extremely appreciated.” While Yelp has confirmed that Jane is no longer with the company, Stoppelman insisted that the decision had nothing to do with the letter. Jane has told Quartz otherwise, saying that an email from HR informed her that her “letter violated Yelp’s Terms of Conduct and for that reason, they (Yelp/Eat24) had to ‘separate’ from me.”

Stoppelman has since responded to Jane’s alarming allegations in a series of tweets, noting that San Francisco should lower its housing costs (an ironic statement, given that companies like Yelp are part of the reason the rent is so high in one of the nation’s most heavily gentrified areas).

Since being let go, Jane has posted links to her PayPal, Venmo, and Square Cash on her Medium site, concluding, “Thank you so much for helping my story be heard.”