Court Says Yelp Reviewers Aren’t Employees 

woman writing outside

From Forbes, Eric Goldman reports on the common sense decision that Yelp reviewers are not employees.  While not a case involving the possible misclassification of workers as independent contractors instead of employees, it shows the extent to which some litigants may seek extend the length of employee protections.  Eric writes:

Adding to the good news for user-generated content websites, last week Yelp got a favorable court opinion holding that its reviewers aren’t employees.

The lawsuit, structured as a class action, alleged that:

each of the three named plaintiffs alleges that he or she “was hired by Yelp, Inc. as a writer and she fulfilled that job description and job functions.” Each plaintiff allegedly was “directed how to write reviews and given other such employee type direction from employer defendant.” Yelp allegedly controlled each plaintiff’s “work schedule and conditions.” Two of the three plaintiffs are alleged to have been “fired” with “no warning [and] a flimsy explanation.”

Although the lawsuit focused on Yelp, these arguments easily extent to every website (including social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter) that rely on users to contribute valuable content and services that comprise the website’s core assets. Thus, the employment issue pervades the entire user-generated content industry.

The court interpreted the plaintiff’s use of the terms “hire” and “fire” to refer to account creation and termination. So interpreted, the court says a “reasonable inference is that plaintiffs and the putative class members may contribute reviews under circumstances that either cannot be reasonably characterized as performing a service to Yelp at all, or that at most would constitute acts of volunteerism.” In a footnote, the court says “That Yelp may realize financial profit from publishing the reviews written by plaintiffs and other putative class members (through third-party advertising on the website) does not necessarily mean that the writers are performing a service for Yelp.” Based on these inferences, the court says that the plaintiffs’ Fair Labor Standards Act claims fail….

Read the full story at Court Says Yelp Reviewers Aren’t Employees

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