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.