Talia Ben-Ora, a Yelp Inc. employee, recently was fired after posting an "open letter" to her boss about the difficulty of living on a Yelp customer-support paycheck. It didn't need to end so badly: Ms. Ben-Ora could have claimed protection from federal and state laws that offer protection to employees who speak up about the conditions of their employment, or about wrongdoing.
This expert analysis by TELG managing principal R. Scott Oswald was published by Law360 on March 4, 2016. The full article is available at Law360. (Site requires paid subscription.)
How To Get Your Boss’s Attention — Without Getting Fired
Last month, a Yelp Inc. employee was fired just hours after she posted an open letter to her wealthy CEO, Jeremy Stoppelman, about the difficulty of living in California’s Bay Area on a Yelp customer-support paycheck.
The resulting media spasm played out predictably. The 25-year-old employee, Talia Ben-Ora, instantly became Exhibit A in two hot-button debates: The quest for livable wage levels and the backlash against insufferable millennials.
To judge by her Twitter feed, Ben-Ora — who also goes by Talia Jane — wasn’t entirely devastated by her firing. Doubling down on the 20-something rhetoric, she says now that she’ll use her misfortune to “ignite a conversation.”
Stoppelman, for his part, has insisted that Ben-Ora wasn’t fired “because she posted a … letter directed at me,” a legalistic phrasing that’s likely truer in word than in spirit. He also added his tin ear to the Bay Area wage debate, noting that Yelp’s solution will be to staff up in Arizona, where its low wages will go further.
A tale with no real heroes, in short. But did it even need to happen?
In the Washington Post, Ben-Ora said her goal was to get Stoppelman’s attention “so that he understands the situation” at his own company. That’s a common aim among workers at many companies — and it’s entirely possible to achieve without being fired, even in our world of at-will employment.