Saturday, August 22, 2015
In an interesting decision, the Northern District of California (where the Uber and Lyft cases both arose) recently ruled that Yelp reviewers are not employees. This is true despite the allegations that the individuals were purportedly told to write the reviews, and did so under the control and at the direction of the company. In the case, Jeung v. Yelp, Judge Seeborg writes that 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." An interesting article on the case over at Forbes.com points out a "core weakness of the plaintiffs’ case" is that "they apparently seek to impose an employment relationship because website users provide value to a user-generated content website, but many value exchanges between businesses and vendors/customers are well outside of employment law."
This case -- like Uber and Lyft -- points out the difficulty with trying to fit modern businesses under the current employment law rubric. The issue has obviously captured the attention of the legal community, and the broader public as well.
-- Joe Seiner