Yelp Reviewers Launch Class Action Lawsuit Claiming They're 'Unpaid Employees'
from the wtf? dept
Remember when a Huffington Post volunteer writer named Jonathan Tasini sued the company for not paying him, even though he had volunteered to occasionally contribute stories? That lawsuit went nowhere fast, but it appears that others are now trying something similar. A class action lawsuit has been launched by a small group of Yelp reviewers, trying to make the (laughable and ridiculous) case that reviewers on the site are actually unpaid employees who are now demanding compensation. It appears that they’re hoping the recent success of a few lawsuits involving “unpaid internships” will now carry over to user-generated content sites as well. To put it mildly, this is incredibly stupid.
Nothing about the relationship of a Yelp reviewer to the company is anything like an employment situation (or even an intern situation). They aren’t “hired.” They don’t have responsibilities or jobs that they have to do. They volunteer to share some reviews because they want to do so. Everyone has their own motivations for why, but the idea that it’s some sort of unpaid employment situation is ludicrous. The entire argument seems to hinge on the idea that Yelp gets value out of their reviews. Well, duh. But that doesn’t make it an employment situation at all. The lawsuit is also littered with out of context snipes at Yelp for other aspects of its business which have absolutely nothing to do with the legal questions in play. Part of the argument, believe it or not, is that Yelp “instructed” these “unpaid employees” to do more work… because it had policies associated with its various gamification mechanisms to encourage them to write more. For example, Yelp has long had a “Yelp Elite” status, but if you’re not contributing lots of reviews, you can lose that status. But, again, all of that is voluntary and is no different than tons of sites with gamification/badges for activity. To argue that constitutes an employment relationship is simply laughable.
It appears that at least some of the plaintiffs are pissed off because, at some point, Yelp cancelled their accounts based on “flimsy explanations.” But, that seems to work against their own arguments. If these folks were really so “exploited” by Yelp, and “forced” to write for no money… then, um, why are they so upset that they “lost” that “job”? The best the lawsuit can offer up (and I’m not joking) is that the “cult-like rewards and disciplines” associated with the gamification drove people to continue to “work” for free.
Once again, this seems like the sort of class action lawsuit that gives class action lawyers a bad name. Find a company that is making a lot of money and come up with some absolutely ridiculous reason for suing. Even in the ridiculously unlikely chance that this lawsuit goes anywhere, the only ones who will benefit are the class action lawyers.