US employee's viral letter to Yelp CEO gets her fired, raises debate over 'whiny millennials'

Ms Talia Jane was sacked by Yelp, hours after she posted a Medium letter to her CEO Jeremy Stoppelman.
Ms Talia Jane was sacked by Yelp, hours after she posted a Medium letter to her CEO Jeremy Stoppelman.PHOTO: MEDIUM.COM

An employee in the United States who got fired after penning an impassioned letter to her boss seeking financial help, has earned praise but invited ridicule all at the same time.

Ms Talia Jane's Friday (Feb 20) post on blogging platform Medium, which went viral over the weekend, was addressed to Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and claims a long list of reasons why she was struggling to make ends meet.

Among the grievances aired by the 25-year-old, who worked in the San Francisco Bay area for Eat24 as a customer service agent, include not being able to afford public transport to work and having to forgo using the heater in her flat as her gas and electric bill was too expensive.

Eat24 is an online food delivery service owned by Internet firm Yelp.

Claiming that she made just US$1,466 (S$2,060) despite working for a successful tech start-up, Ms Jane also dramatically described how she had to "pick coins on the street" and drink a litre of water before going to bed so she could fall asleep without waking up with stomach pains due to a lack of food.

Eighty per cent of her income goes to her rent, she said, and she had not bought any groceries except for a bag of rice as she could not afford them. 

"So here I am, 25-years-old, balancing all sorts of debt and trying to pave a life for myself that doesn't involve crying in the bathtub every week," she wrote.


Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman. PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

Hours after her post was put up, she announced in an update that she had been "officially let go from the company", and listed her PayPal details requesting for donations.

A stranger who read about her story also set up a GoFundMe campaign with a US$3,000 goal, titled "Help a Yelp/Eat24 employee eat/live".

Responding to Ms Jane's blog post and the news of her sacking on Twitter, Mr Stoppelman acknowledged his former employee's point that the cost of living was far too high, but denied that the post had been the reason she was fired.

"I've not been personally involved in Talia being let go and it was not because she posted a Medium letter directed at me... Two sides to every HR story so Twitter army please put down the pitchforks," he wrote in a series of tweets addressing the furore.

In a statement to Business Insider, Yelp said it does not comment on personal issues, but added: "However, we did agree with many of the points in Ms Jane's post and we viewed it as her real, personal narrative about what it's like to live in the Bay Area.

"Most importantly, it's an important example of freedom of speech."

While Ms Jane's plight has garnered plenty of support, it has also been dismissed by detractors, with one commentator to the post describing her as a "stereotypical, entitled, and whiny millennial".

Another commentator, Kris Gellci, pointed out: "Probably not a good idea to publicly slam the company that pays your bills and the CEO that signs the checks, as proven by your update.

"If you wonder why 18-year-olds that live with their parents are doing the same job as you, it is because it is an entry level position with minimum wage pay that does not require a college degree."

Sympathy was also in short supply from fellow millennials her age with several criticising her for lacking the work ethic to succeed.