Yelp Reviewers File Class Action Lawsuit, Want To Get Paid

Last fall, while we were covering fake Yelp reviews of real businesses and real Yelp reviews of fake businesses, a lawsuit questioning the nature of online reviews in a different way was filed on the West Coast. The lawsuit was dismissed in February, but has since been filed again with different attorneys and a different lead plaintiff. Their argument? Elite Yelp reviewers provide a service to the site, and some reviewers are paid, so all of them ought to be.

Regular Consumerist readers know that we already question the value of Yelp’s “Elite” program, where prodigious reviewers receive virtual swag on their profiles and real-life swag and special parties from restaurants. There’s another, lesser-known program of Yelp “scouts,” who file reviews in new areas for the site and are paid for their work.

We weren’t able to obtain a copy of the complaint in this current lawsuit, but in the suit last fall, the plaintiffs complained about how they were treated differently from paid reviewers while performing the same functions. They seek wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act, pointing out that it’s unfair that some Yelp reviewers are paid for their work while others aren’t.

What’s the difference between a Yelp “Scout” and a regular reviewer? One gets paid, the defendants point out, while others don’t.

Not only must the wage-paid and non-wage-paid writers follow the exact same rules dictated by Defendant, but when looking at the profiles of the writers on Yelp’s website, there is no distinction made between them, other than a rare “Scout” or “Ambassador” badge for a wage-paid writer. This discretionary method of paying some employees wages, but not others, is in violation of the FLSA.

The plaintiffs haven’t specified how much money they’re seeking, but do point out that Yelp is making a lot of money off their unpaid labor. Will this class action suit be dismissed, too? We’ll keep you posted.

Lily Jeung et al v. Yelp Inc [Internet Archive]
Yelp Reviewers Want to be Paid [Courthouse News]

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  1. furiousd says:

    Is a lawsuit necessary? Can’t they just refuse to do any more free labor for Yelp unless they get paid for it by getting upgraded to a Scout? Why does the court system need to be involved, when they knew that the work they were doing was pro bono? It seems a bit ex post facto to demand money for what they indicated they were willing to do for free, just like how I report gas prices for free on the GasBuddy app because I want to be helpful to other people in my area.