Yoga Teacher Gets Fired After Glaring At Facebook Worker

By Fennit Nirappil

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Looks may not kill, but they can get you fired.

That's what a Northern California yoga instructor found after leading sessions at Facebook Inc.'s Menlo Park campus.

The instructor, Alice Van Ness, said she got fired after she glared at a Facebook employee who texted during a class in June. "The whole point for most people going to yoga is that it's disconnecting from the outside world," said Van Ness, a 35-year-old San Carlos resident who has taught yoga for six years. "If you are bringing your phone into class, why are you even there?"

Van Ness told the Facebook class to turn their phones off after seeing a female employee with a cellphone out. Later, while demonstrating a difficult pose, she caught the same worker typing on her phone. Van Ness said she stayed silent, but shot the woman a disapproving look. The employee stepped out before returning to the class, Van Ness said.

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According to a termination letter from Plus One Health Management that was provided to The Associated Press by Van Ness, she was warned prior to the class that she could not enforce a cellphone ban.

David Milani, a representative of Plus One Health Management, declined to comment specifically on Van Ness' case. But he said company instructors who teach at some companies including Facebook are required to allow fitness members to pick up their phones during class.

Van Ness thought it would blow over, until she was fired two weeks later. The Facebook employee was embarrassed and shocked by the "confrontation" with the instructor, the termination letter indicated. The company feared making clients unhappy, Van Ness said.

"We are in the business of providing great customer service. Unless a client requires us to specifically say 'no' to something, we prefer to say 'yes' whenever possible," an official wrote in the termination letter.

Facebook, in a statement, declined to comment on Van Ness' case, saying it's against their policy to comment on decisions made by outside vendors.

Van Ness said losing the job meant losing a third of her monthly income. But since her story went public, she said she landed a new job - where she's keeping the no cellphone rule.

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Jason Anania

I'm sorry. I signed in to this through my FaceBook account, so I hope it doesn't get censored! I am really into Yoga, and 50% of it is mental, 45% is focused on your breathing, and the final 5% is the actual pose. But the point is that is is NOT appropriate to be on your phone in a Yoga class EVER! The outside world does not exist while you are in the studio. If you can't accept that, then you have no business even walking in the door. I don't teach, but if I was in that situation, I would have no problem sparing the teacher and throwing the arrogant narcissist on the phone right out the door. Might not be very "zen," but it's a lot less disruptive than the jerk interrupting the class. Reading about this story is upsetting to me. The douche on the phone obviously has no respect for ANYONE else in the class. If you can't unplug for an hour, you need a mental health clinician, not a Yoga instructor. DO NOT break up what I have going on in my head so you can "lol" at your self-entitled playmates back at the office.

December 26 2013 at 2:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Good for her, if I was in a yoga class and some twit was texting, I would have told her she was disturbing the rest of us. If you can't put your phone down for a yoga class you have more problems than needing to de-stress.

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