It is not out of the ordinary for fitness instructors to ask their students to turn off all electronic devices prior to the start of the class. But at least one Facebook employee found the request so intolerable that she had the company's yoga teacher fired over it.
35-year-old Alice Van Ness has been holding weekly yoga classes at the social networking company's Menlo Park headquarters since March without incident.
Last month, after asking an employee who was checking her Facebook account to put her smartphone aside for the duration of the class, Van Ness was promptly terminated by Plus One Health Management, Facebook's fitness contractor.
She explains that the unnamed woman was "typing away" in the front row, and was asked — along with the rest of the class — to turn off her phone. Halfway through the class, however, the same woman picked up her phone again, at which point Van Ness "stopped talking and looked at her." She said nothing, but "I'm sure my face said it all."
The offended employee complained, and two weeks later Van Ness was fired.
"We are in the business of providing great customer service," Plus One wrote in the termination notice. "Unless a client requires us to specifically say no to something, we prefer to say yes whenever possible." Van Ness was also let go from a job at Cisco, allegedly for asking an employee not to photograph a class in progress.
Van Ness doesn't quite understand why she was let go. "Hello - this is only Facebook," she told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We're not talking about the U.S. government here. We're not talking about Russia is about to bomb us. We're talking about Facebook. Something can't wait half an hour?"
Michelle Michael, who owns the Microsoft-adjacent Balance Yoga Studio agrees. "It's anti-yoga, if you ask me," she said.