Should Yelpers be compensated for their reviews like actual, professional writers? A group of Yelpers have filed a California class action lawsuit against the site, claiming that they are actually unpaid employees and legally deserve pay for their work, TechDirt reports. Plaintiffs are seeking “just compensation of wages, benefits, and reimbursement for the reviews they created, arguing that Yelp “could not exist, nor make its enormous returns, without its domination and control over non-wage writers.”

According to the suit, Yelp has “devised a system of cult-like rewards and disciplines to motivate” writers in lieu of monetary compensation, including “trinkets, badges, titles, praise, social promotion, free liquor, free food, and free promotional Yelp attire, such as red panties with ‘Make Me Yelp!’ stamped across its bottom.” The Yelp system’s network of unpaid “employees,” furthermore, “gives it an unfair business advantage over its competitors.”

The suit claims that Yelp punishes its Elite reviewers for leaving negative reviews of sponsors, and that Elite reviewers sometimes write inaccurate reviews to meet a quota of reviews that must be filed at each star level. The case also outlines how Yelpers can be “fired,” and that like employees, Yelpers “work under the close scrutiny and prodding” of Yelp’s watchful eye. Those who contribute to Yelp are therefore “misclassified employees,” and the suit seeks payment for the entire class of workers, potentially thousands of reviewers. In a statement quoted by Fast Company, Yelp claims, “the argument that voluntarily using a free service equates to an employment relationship is completely without merit.”

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman has previously defended Yelpers, saying “If you look at the demographics, they’re off the charts, very attractive … It’s not just young folks mouthing off about McDonald’s. It’s consumers in major urban metros talking about businesses.” News of the suit follows a recent study which suggested some 16 percent of restaurant reviews on Yelp are fake. Read the claim below:

Panzer v. Yelp Class Action

· Yelp Reviewers Launch Class Action Lawsuit Claiming They’re ‘Unpaid Employees’ [TechDirt]
· How Much Is Your Yelp Review Worth? [Fast Company]
· All Yelp Coverage on Eater [-E-]