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Facebook Yoga Instructor Fired After Demanding Cell Phones Be Shut Off — Is It Fair?

Yoga Instructor
Kevork Djansezian, Getty Images

Yoga is meant to be a relaxing and purifying activity, one whose entire purpose can be disrupted by things like cell phones. California yoga instructor Alice Van Ness had one critical policy for her students: turn the cell phones off.

She began teaching a weekly yoga class at Facebook and installed the same policy. When one employee ignored the request, Van Ness offered a look of disapproval and was swiftly dismissed by the fitness contractor for whom she worked. The person she stared down apparently complained about her actions.

The old adage that “The customer is always right” applies here.

Van Ness’ former employers at Plus One Health Management claimed in her termination notice that “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.”

The company also claimed that this Facebook incident was one of many instances of strict behavior on Van Ness’ part. She was also fired from a similar gig at Cisco; while there, she had asked an employee not to take photos during an in-session class.

Van Ness’ reply? “Hello! This is only Facebook. We’re not talking about the US 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?”

Van Ness believes that reading an email is not as as important as understanding your body, but apparently, at a tech company, workers can’t put aside mobile devices, even for 30 minutes. Van Ness said that these corporate gigs were difficult for her anyway, since the employees were fidgety and distracted. “The culture of these places is to let them do whatever they want,” she said. “And I’m just not really okay with anarchy.”

She continues to teach at other studios in Northern California.

While we understand that by their very nature, tech company employees have a need to keep their phones close at hand, it defeats the purpose of offering a yoga course, since it teaches one to purify and block out external distractions. It feels a bit extreme for her to have been fired for trying to create a calm, serene and peaceful atmosphere for others taking her class.

[SF Gate]

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