Writing Yelp Reviews Is Not a Job, Judge Finds

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Yelp reviewers are volunteers, not employees, and therefore don’t need to be paid, a federal judge ruled.
     U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg dismissed the putative class action brought by a class of reviewers who claimed their contributions to the website constituted a employer-employee relationship.
     Lead plaintiff Lily Jeung complained she was “hired” by Yelp, that Yelp controls reviewers’ “work schedule and conditions” and that two of the three named plaintiffs were “fired” with “no warning and a flimsy explanation.”
     Seeborg found the plaintiffs “use the term ‘hired’ to refer to a process by which any member of the public can sign up for an account on the Yelp website and submit reviews, and the term ‘fired’ to refer to having their accounts involuntarily closed, presumably for conduct that Yelp contends breached its terms of service agreement.”
     But the reviewers’ contributions to the site “at most would constitute acts of volunteerism,” he wrote.
     Based on the plaintiffs’ “mere conclusory allegations” and their “rambling and invective-filled papers,” Seeborg dismissed the suit.
     He also denied their request for sanctions against Yelp.
     Adrianos Facchetti, Yelp’s attorney, said in an email that the action was a “frivolous lawsuit that should never have been filed.”
     “The argument that voluntarily using a free service equates to an employment relationship is absurd on its face, unsupported by law and contradicted by the existence of dozens of websites like Yelp that consumers use to help one another,” he said.
     The plaintiffs could not be reached for comment. They are represented by Daniel Bernath, whose office is in Fort Myers, Florida. Facchetti’s office is in Pasadena, California.

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