SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — An employee for Yelp has been fired shortly after publishing an open letter to the head of the company detailing her daily struggle to pay for food and rent because of low wages.

UPDATE 2:44 pm: San Francisco radio station Live 105 – which, like CBS San Francisco, is part of CBS Radio – announced that Talia Jane would fill in as a traffic reporter for two hours on the Kevin Klein Live show Tuesday morning. Jane spoke with Live 105 Monday:

Jane’s open letter to Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said her job on the customer support team earned her $8.15 an hour after taxes, and $733.34 bi-weekly – of which 80 percent goes to paying rent. Jane said her apartment, transportation to work from Concord, and utilities leave her with little or no money to buy food or heat her apartment.

I’ve since stopped using my heater. Have you ever slept fully clothed under several blankets just so you don’t get a cold and have to miss work? Have you ever drank a liter of water before going to bed so you could fall asleep without waking up a few hours later with stomach pains because the last time you ate was at work? I woke up today with stomach pains. I made myself a bowl of rice.

In her Live 105 interview, Jane said it was evident soon after she began working that those in her department were also challenged to pay rent. “Once I got there and I realized that all my co-workers were living at home or they can’t afford to have to pay rent, that’s when I was, like, ‘Oh, this is not looking good,’” she said.

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The 25-year-old Jane noted Yelp provides free beverages and snacks to its employees while at work, and called the company-provided health insurance “great.” She noted, however, the $20 copayment for a doctor visit would likely keep her away.

$20 to see a doctor or get an eye exam or see a therapist or get medication. Twenty bucks each is pretty neat, if spending twenty dollars didn’t determine whether or not you could afford to get to work the next week.

Jane said many of her coworkers in customer support for both Yelp and its Eat24 delivery service are in the same situation she is.

Isn’t that ironic? Your employee for your food delivery app that you spent $300 million to buy can’t afford to buy food. That’s gotta be a little ironic, right?

In a footnote just hours after publishing her blog post, Jane said she had been fired and asked for donations while she looks for a new job.

“When I spoke to HR they informed me that the letter violated their code of conduct, but apparently the official reason is that it had nothing to do with the letter,” Jane told Live 105 in San Francisco Monday.

Jane told Live 105 the response she’s gotten has been heartening. “I’ve gotten actually a surprising number of people trying to set me up with similar positions in other places, they’re like, ‘If you move to St. Paul, we can get you a job …” she said. “I’ve had people who are, like, ‘You know what, it was really brave to do that, and we feel bad you got canned for it.”

On Twitter, Stoppelman said he was “not personally involved in Talia being let go and it was not because she posted a Medium letter directed at me.”

Stoppelman also sought to turn the discussion toward sky-high rents in San Francisco, even though Jane lives in Concord.

Asked about the circumstances that led to the firing of Jane, who also goes by Talia Ben-Ora, a Yelp spokesman said in a statement: “We do not comment on personnel matters. However, we did agree with many of the points in the Medium post and thought it served as an important example of Ms. Ben-Ora’s freedom of speech. We agree with her remarks about the high costs of living in San Francisco, which is why we announced in December that we are expanding our Eat24 customer support team into our Phoenix office where (we) will pay the same wage.”

Yelp bought Eat24 last year for $134 million in cash and Yelp shares. The average monthly apartment rent in Phoenix is $1,196 versus $4,400 in San Francisco, according to Zillow.


Carlos E. Castañeda is Senior Editor, News & Social Media for CBS San Francisco and a San Francisco native. You can follow him on Twitter or send him an email.

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