Yoga teacher fired for glaring at Facebook employee

Alice Van Ness was hired to teach Yoga at Facebook's Menlo Park Campus. She told employees who took her classes to refrain from using cellphones, but one female employee ignored her and used her phone during a session. Van Ness says she gave the employee a "look of disapproval."

The employee complained to the woman's boss, who fired Van Ness.

According to the termination letter, the employee said Van Ness had "made a spectacle of her" during the class by stopping instruction and glaring at her when she pulled out her phone.

Van Ness said she didn't know the employee's name or whether she is a high-level executive at Facebook.

San Carlos yoga teacher loses job after glaring at Facebook employee for using cellphone in class


  1. General rule when entering a class:
    If you’d rather be somewhere else, go there instead.
    The woman made a spectacle of herself, no help required.

    1.  Also, general rule when entering a __(fill in the blank)__.

      1. All of the above, plus theater, cinema, museum, or any other place where your fellow patrons/customers have a reasonable expectation of quiet. You do not get to steal everybody else’s value, you do not get to devalue everybody else’s experience, because (for whatever obnoxious reason) you have to use your phone.

        Movie theaters used to have a policy where people on call could check in at the door and/or leave their pagers at the door and have an usher quietly, discretely come notify them if they were urgently needed. Too many people carry cellphones to make that work any more, so we’re stuck with verbal warnings and signs asking people to mute their phones. Which don’t work.

        Which leaves us only with social disapproval. But now that gets you fired, if you do it to someone richer than you. Lovely.

        1. Hey, hey, now, they don’t NEED to be richer than you, merely better connected to power – having lots of money just makes that super easy.

  2. I never had to do anything when a student’s phone rang.  The other students would start screaming at the offender.  And if it happened a couple of times, the gym would deny that person access to classes.

      1. Why? For all you know, the rest of the students were minions of the offender, who has shown herself ready, willing and able to get someone fired for looking at her funny. Or perhaps she’s just the office bully who’s got everyone terrified.

        1. Yes, precisely. That nobody spoke up should have alerted an observer. 

          I also don’t get “just the office bully”. Office bullies  – as other bullies –  do their thing because they have backing.  If they don’t, they back down when confronted. 

          However, upon rereading the complete piece, I have to amend my position. It doesn’t really apply in this case, as the other students weren’t really inconvenienced, as far as I can tell. If the teacher had ignored the typist, all the others could have proceeded with their exercises.

          Reminds me of a couple of teachers I had, who demanded utter and total  concentration on them – something I simply cannot do, especially if the presentation is slow or covers stuff I already know.  

          And yes, in this case the pupil probably didn’t know the stuff and didn’t learn. but that’s his or her problem.

          Edit: Running to bosses to whine about a disproving look, even when accompanied with an involuntary break for the others, doesn’t befit an adult and firing the teacher casts a bad light on both companies involved.

  3. See, this is the mistake a lot of people in her position make: in retrospect I’m sure she would have preferred to have been fired for _throttling_ a Facebook executive.

  4. Yoga teacher at Facebook. Not Facebook employee at yoga teacher’s studio. Wrong turf for attitude, I think.

    1. Really?  We’ve gotten to the point where you can’t even look at someone with disapproval without reprisal?  Maybe we should just adopt chimp law and settle this with some good old fashioned feces throwing.

      Granted, the truth could be different, but if she really was fired for stopping and glaring…sheesh. I pity us all.

      1. Wrong. Turf, smurf- if she was attending the class than she should do just that. Disrupting it and pissing off everyone, not just the teacher is the attitude problem here . Liking her friends newest cat picture is not a good enough reason to take people out of a Yoga moment. Everyone needs to stop being a slave to their phones. People freak out when my phone rings, or I get a message and don’t answer it right away. Why should I? I take calls and message on MY time when it’s convenient for ME, not every time they just happen. Maybe its because I had a pager when only doctors did, or cell phones with internet before anyone else, I’m a little ahead of the curve. Let me tell you what’s at the end of it- the decision and realization that its good to not be controlled by technology. (reply to Teller, not madopal)

        1. ” People freak out when my phone rings, or I get a message and don’t answer it right away…”
          I’ve had this reaction as well from people, they have a look  that ignoring a ringing phone is the height of mental instability. Sheesh it’s a fecking phone not a direct line to Jebus.

          Poor yoga teacher, losing a gig over shite like this. Love the fact that yoga fans are offering alternatives to her… Shame on the company providing her to FaceBook for having no backbone whatsoever, and to the webtard at FaceBook who complained.

      2. As I understand it (from the radio), she asked him to stop using Facebook and had been specifically told (since she was at Facebook HQ) not to prevent employees from using Facebook since they are encouraged to check it. I don’t know if this is true but, if it is, it makes for a different situation.

        1. Probably Facebook should stop acting like the Church of Scientology. Unless, you know, they want to be mocked.

    2.  Yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to be rude to the help.  Also, temp servants should be beaten regularly so they know their place.  You’d fit in just fine at Facebook, Teller. 

    3. I think that you fail to understand that playing with your phone in class is a problem for the other students as much or more than it is for the teacher.  If you have a speaker addressing employees at your place of business, is it okay if one of your coworkers does something disruptive to the presentation?

      1. I’m saying what I said. Skip the analogies.

        Think we can agree it would’ve been better all around if other Facebook employees had said Boo! to phone-junkie. Fact is, yoga teacher is a paid supplier on Facebook campus. In her studio, she rules. As a paid temp – she ran a risk behaving as if it were her studio. Don’t think it’s rocket surgery.

          1. Doesn’t it seem like the logical abilities of many commenters has turned south here?  The lack of understanding of Teller, and a number of others is breathtaking.  I don’t know if it’s an inability to solve a conflict or a deficit of social skills, but they just don’t grasp the most fundamental concepts of courtesy and human interaction.  Makes me appreciate my coworkers by comparison.  Stunning.

          2. they just don’t grasp the most fundamental concepts of courtesy and human interaction.

            It appears that you just don’t grasp that there are numbers larger than one. The teacher is being courteous to every other student in the room except the offender.

        1. No.  If she has been hired to teach a yoga class, and a component of the class is a calm, quiet environment, then by *not* addressing the issue of a phone going off she is failing in the duties she was hired for.  The company that hired her to perform the task should ensure that she has the authority to carry out the task she was hired to perform.

        2. Bizarre and solipsistic analysis. One of the thing that a presenter does, no matter who’s paying for it, is to maintain an atmosphere in which all the participants get the maximum benefit from the presentation. No worthwhile presenter permits one audience member to disrupt the presentation for everyone else.

          1. It is simply not possible to create such an environment. Someone will always be too slow, too stupid, too fast, too smart, and so on. 

          2. retepslluerb: Even if it weren’t possible to do it perfectly, that doesn’t change that it’s the presenter’s job to create the best environment possible.  But you’re wrong; it is possible to create such an environment, on a regular basis.  I’ve been a student in one many times.

        3. I absolutely agree. When I am looking for an employee, and I ask them in an interview, “When was the last time you were in a situation in which you were uncomfortable, and how did you handle it?” I would totally want to hear, “Well, in the middle of a yoga class my cell phone went off, and I answered it cause it was really super important, and the yoga teacher totally glared at me so I ran to my boss and whined and got that teacher fired!”

          Definitely management material.

        4. Wow, have you ever been right about anything? If this is an example of your mind at work, likely not.

        5. If you ask someone to instruct you, the location of where that instruction takes place is irrelevant – the physical space around them becomes their classroom. If you just want someone to kiss your ass, don’t pretend that you’re trying to improve yourself.

          “Paid supplier” != “slavish servant”. You can find and retain people to be such servants (if you are rich enough and they are poor enough), but hiring people just to disrespect them/assert your superiority over them would speak poorly of your moral character.

          1. heh. I think a personalized ring tone inserted right before she tells everyone to turn around would be perfect. Good one.

        6. It seems to me that all your comments here advocate corporate power over common decency. Is there any special reason for this?

      2. When it makes sounds or lights in darkened environment, yes. Otherwise, no.  

        Sorry, people have to realize that not all people can stop everything just for the sake of a slow presenter or slow audience. 

        Gah, now you triggered flashback to classes in school, were supposedly sitting still 15 minutes listening to the same stuff over and over again (or worse: Waiting for people to read their page) was supposed to “build character”.  

        1. But yoga classes are voluntary. And people who attend them generally enjoy them. And frequently report that it’s the only time that they can really relax.

          1. I’m pretty sure that Yoga wouldn’t be for me, yes.   

            However, voluntary participation doesn’t necessarily mean enjoyment in “fitness” classes like this. 

            Unfortunately, I do not get an Enordphin rush from sports of any kind (Though riding’s kinda nice.) and have to participate simply for maintenance. 

          2. Although some people teach fitness classes and call them yoga, that’s not actually yoga. In a 55 minute class, I wouldn’t have more than 30 minutes of anything that could possibly be described as exercise. Some classes mostly consist of sitting or lying on the floor and stretching.

          1.  If it were really about money she would have gotten a refund instead of getting the instructor fired.

      3.  If the speaker is reading a 78-slide power point deck word for word.  I would welcome any disruption.   Fuck yeah.

    4. Evidently so, but only in the practical sense.

      If I’m taking a class requiring a quiet, meditative atmosphere and some jerk is ruining it because they can’t stay off their got-damn phone I’d consider it the teacher’s responsibility to tell them to knock it off. I’ll even bet the majority of students in that class were thinking the same thing.

      The result being wrong doesn’t make it right, just the result.

    5. Teller, I usually agree with your comments, I’m not sure if I remember not agreeing with you, and in any case, the quality of your comments is above average – and the bar here is generally high, compared to other places. 

      But in this case, I dunno…I can’t really disagree with your point on ‘Wrong turf for attitude…’ – this is of course true. 

      But I’m not sure if this can really be called an attitude, maybe it was just an automatic reaction that, being a teacher, she uses for class control. Maybe she was in the ‘Zone’ and forgot who the students were. Maybe the Facebook employee, who was obviously high enough ranked to get rid of her was being a high-strung nasty-rank-puller.  As in ‘DO U NO WHO I AM OMG HOW DARE U NOT NO WHO I AM!!!’

      A simple non-verbal ‘look’ shouldn’t warrant termination.  A simple redirection at the end of the class by the person responsible for contractors would have been better. 

      Of course, on the other hand, maybe the yoga teacher gave her a really, really nasty, demeaning glare that would have caused M. Gandhi to hire another teacher.  

      Hmmm…I’ve been the recipient of such over-the-top glares for much, much less, so maybe it was a ‘tude.  

      I can completely understand a contractor not being asked back over a blatantly nasty look. Such thing do create a hostile work environment and a manager is obligated to take action. Perhaps this wasn’t a one-off but was part of a pattern. If was a blatant ‘tude, and a pattern, good for the F-Book lady for getting rid of her.  

      Whatever it was, this is a great comment thread. Interesting. 

  5. Clearly, the problem is this simply put, RESPECT, Aretha Franklin sang about it, Rodney Dangerfield never got it (in humor), but the sad simple truth is, we just don’t respect one another.  The sad thing really is this, society as a whole is sinking into the quagmire.  We all were not there, the actual truth is someplace between what happened and what was said, the only difference, one has a job and the other does not.  

  6. I recall one occasion at the gym when, sweaty, exhausted, red-faced, and squinting from my lack of glasses, someone apparently thought I was looking at him, and took it the wrong way, to put it succinctly.

    Clearly the only way to proceed is in such situations is to completely avoid looking at anyone ever.

  7. Oh sweet irony of people complaining about how terrible facebook (not just the person involved is), and yet using a commenting system that REQUIRES facebook.

      1.  I’m guessing Teal is referring to the article’s comment section, not BoingBoing’s.  I tried to “like” a comment there, and it only gave me the option to sign in with FB.  So, I didn’t.  I also saw the incredible irony of all those FB complainers who had to have used their FB account to comment. 

    1.  I use Discus and refuse to get sucked into Facebook. That said, my local newspaper only takes comments from Facebook users. How’s that for freedom of speech?

      1. I like on stupid Huff post it tries to link my comment EVERY time I post, twice.  Every single comment I have to exit out of two popups. Good work. Idiots.

      1. ++ on the not irony.  “My wife was murdered by a knife-wielding maniac!”  “Hah, well _you_ own a knife, right your very kitchen!  Hypocrite!”

    2. I have a BB native account, like >40% of the commenters.  I only even have a Disqus account because I need it to moderate.

      1.  Antinous, can you tell me more about a BB native account? Does it give access to more comment pages?

        1. No. It’s just what we used to have before Disqus. It’s another option for people who don’t want a Disqus account.

          1. How do you use get a BB native account then? I only use Disqus because I didn’t realize there were other options here.


            Once you create an account, it takes you into what looks like the guts of BB. It’s not; it’s your WP dashboard. If you already have a Disqus account and you use the same e-mail to make a BB account, Disqus will probably automatically merge all your comments into your Disqus profile.

          3. When we switched to WP, everyone had to do a password change. Unfortunately, a lot of commenters didn’t try until weeks or months later and it was impossible at that point.

        2. You can get one at , but Disqus will automatically create a ‘matching’ one, which is what you’ll really be using. It might be useful if you fancy yourself a BB lifer, however, as there will probably eventually be a time when we’ll go back to ‘native’ comments only, when WordPress native comments don’t suck.

          1. We here at RJ Intellect do our best to ensure you receive whole, all-natural comments. While many commenters artificially plump their submissions with trolls and doodie, RJ Intellect remains committed to commenting the old-fashioned way.

            RJ. Not just another WP comment.

  8. Seems to me that the instructor had plainly stated the rule about cell phones. If you agree to be in the class and abide by those rules, then you abide by those rules. It’s that simple.

  9. Facebook lady has a bright future at Bain. Since she’s spending some time hanging around yoga classes you’d think she might have heard the term “karma” at some point or does that concept not apply to Facebook employees? God, how do these people sleep at night and look at themselves in the mirror?

    1. They sleep well and they spend hours gazing lovingly at themselves in the mirror.  They and their children and their children’s children will make more money than you’ll ever make, and unlike all the bitter wishful thinking, they’ll lead largely happy, contented lives, surrounded by people who adore them, or are paid to adore them.

        1. Hahaha!  It does sound like a line from the Portlandia restaurant sketch, doesn’t it?

        2. Their flesh is suffused with bile, making them slightly less tasty than Mirkwood squirrel.

      1.  I wonder if any of them ever read a Zola novel.  Sleep well, Facebook lady and others of your ilk.

  10. My martial arts teacher has a big jar of water near the front door.  He tells students that it’s where the phones that go off during class are held until class is over.

    In all the years he’s never had to dunk a phone, not once.  If someone is expecting an important call (like a guy whose wife was gonna have a baby) he makes exceptions, no problem.   “Work” is not an allowable exception under any circumstances.  His very heavy Chinese accent makes his explanation of the rules sort of humorous, but everyone complies.

  11. Here’s another way to look at it: imagine you’re a busy executive who needs to be available by phone all day. The only way you can get a workout is if you have your phone close by. Your company has thoughtfully contracted for a yoga instructor to visit your building so you don’t get completely out of shape while working long hours. Only problem is, the trainer who shows up comes with the attitude that her class is a higher priority than the business of the company paying her salary. An exercise teacher having a paying job is a privilege these days – letting her go is not reprisal, give me a break.

    1. Ridiculous. This sounds like something a Republican would say.  I seriously doubt her job was important enough that it couldn’t wait 20 minutes. Come on. Get serious. If she really needs Yoga that bad (she should), she can turn off a phone for 20 mins. I can see it now: “Judy, where the hell are you? We formed an emergency committee to find new ways to destroy people’s privacy. You hold the deciding vote. Facebook is turned off for the entire planet until we reach you. Call me.”.

      Give it up. Lady was rude, teacher was perfectly in the right if not OBLIGATED to do MORE than just glare, and Facebook is full of douches who deserve to suffer ill health from not doing Yoga.

      1. I’m a Republican, and I wouldn’t say that.

        The ONLY way I could even remotely get to that level would be if Ms. Executive hired the Yoga trainer for a one on one and it was understood ahead of time that she may have to answer her phone.  In that situation the trainer gets paid regardless and no one is inconvenienced.

        IMO doing stuff like this is just plain rude for anyone when you are dealing with a group environment.  And we don’t really know the makeup of the class either.  Were they all subordinates of this woman?  If so I doubt any one of them would say a word about the phone thing.

        Either way, boss lady was power tripping.

        1. The difference is that you’re a relatively reasonable republican (and I know this from your frequent comments here). If I recall correctly, you’ve even lamented yourself that most republicans these days are outrageous, and it’s those awful ones that @flickerKuu:disqus was referring to :)

    2. I agree. Once one has accepted compensation of any kind, any possible thought of being treated with common decency and respect should be left at the door. It is far, far too much to expect that any employee should have to walk outside a room in order to take a call.

    3.  In that situation, Ms. Busy Executive should quietly stand up, leave the room, and conduct her business elsewhere. Common decency, but becoming less so.

    4. If it had been a one on one class, fine.  But she was also teaching other facebook employees.  The phone user was detracting from her colleague’s experience.  If the teacher sets the precedent that everyone in class can talk on the phone in class, she becomes a less effective teacher.  Really, most rooms would have a minority that do so, but it’s still enough to greatly detract from meditation/yoga.  I don’t really meditate, but I can’t imagine doing so while someone’s talking next to me on their cell phone.  Also, the teacher has responsibility to make sure no one’s doing something that might hurt them.  If the precious employee takes precedence over all, then this precious employee shouldn’t be doing it half-assed in a way that could lead to their injury.

      Jon asked how this detracted from the class. For the teacher, you see someone is obviously not paying attention. So that person likely doesn’t know what to do next. You can repeat yourself when they get back to you, you can tell them again when they obviously don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing. Or you can pause, waiting for them to get back to you. All of this is on everyone else’s time. If that behaviour is not discouraged, the teacher will be continually repeating herself, as others will feel it’s fine to get their phone out for something, just to check a potentially important email, or to check who a call is from. Then when they don’t get the instruction, the teacher repeats herself again. I wasn’t in the class, so I don’t know exactly how the person was using the phone, if it was beeping, if she was talking, if she was right in the front of class. There is a structure to classes, and if someone is taking the focus off the teacher, however unintentionally, it detracts from the class.

    5. Busy exec should take her yoga class elsewhere when she has some free time but busy exec is probably too cheap to pay for yoga classes. The teacher didn’t have an attitude. Teachers teach and if a “student” can’t let go of their ego for an hour said student will never learn anything. But Busy Exec was not really there to learn anything.

    6. At one time nobody important would be directly contactable by phone. They would have people to field their calls. We have all become non-entities, always available and at call. We do not like it and throw tantrums taking out our displeasure on those least able to mount a defence. (Some of us anyway.)

      1. He didn’t say that the person on question had to be directly contactable by  phone. 

        The calls can still get screened. 

        Yes, having to be on the phone all the time is probably a sign of a bad manager or executive, but if you are running a really large entity, even the small percentage of ultra-important amount too a lost of time. 

  12. See, this is EXACTLY why I don’t do yoga.  The cell phones, the glaring, the firing . . .

  13. Maybe the nice executive lady just needs to be taught a new yoga exercise?  Call it… I dunno… “Self-important b***h with cell phone stuck up ass”?  Or not.

  14. She could have simply put the phone on vibrate and excused herself to take the call. I doubt that would have drawn a glare from the teacher.

    When people start giving you dirty looks, at some point you have to realize that it’s not them, it’s you.

  15. Entitlement issues.  She’s important, the lowly instructor is not. The Facebook employee doesn’t feel like she has to respect the authority of the instructor even when she’s the leader in this situation. Having somebody of lower class/pay/job status rebuke or even give a look of disproval is intolerable.

    1. Exactly this.  You’d have to pay me an unreasonable amount of money to work for an entitled jackass.  And by unreasonable, I mean 8 digits, minimum.

  16. As an exercise teacher who just got home from my job (which is a JOB, not a privilege*)  here is my take:
    If the phone-checker has enough power to get the yoga teacher fired for looking at her, then ms phone-checker should have no problem growing the fuck up and negotiating and paying for a separate, phone-friendly yoga class instead of ruining yoga for everyone else.  If she can’t participate in the class on the same terms as everyone else, she doesn’t belong in the class.  An adult should be able to weather a mere look of disapproval. 

    Also, if the yoga teacher was an independent contractor, she has every right to conduct the class on her own terms, whether in her own studio or at another location.  No one has to take her class unless they want to have phone-free yoga. 

    *this was originally a response to jon winchester and his “An exercise teacher having a paying job is a privilege these days” comment. Ummmm…no.

      1. Until the idiot hurts herself doing the pose incorrectly because she’s too busy texting, and then sues the teacher. 

        I’ve been in a step aerobics class where students are texting while they’re stepping on and off the bench (although none of them have been seriously injured yet, one has missed the step and landed on her butt on the floor.) If you aren’t focused on the task at hand, it’s very easy to hurt yourself in yes even a yoga class.

        1. Yes, they can hurt themselves.  They’ve been told to follow instructions. 

          If your society is so horrible broken that people don’t get laughed out of court when they present those claims, you should really fix that problem first.

      2.  That’s not really how jobs work.  Have you seen the signs in restaurants, coffee shops, etc. that say something like “We reserve the right not to serve you while you’re on a cell phone”?  The instructor had a similar policy which she clearly stated.  If anyone had a problem with that policy they shouldn’t have had a problem not taking the class.

  17. Glaring is a definite form of abuse and should be reported to the proper authorities whenever it’s encountered. Much psychological damage can result from unwarranted ‘glaring’ and glare counseling is highly recommended for the victims of ‘glaring.’ 
    In fact, the Dep’t of Prozacian Glare Counselling has a ‘glare kit’ that you can order online at and only costs $275.00. Anyone in proximity to a glaring individual can also wear a special lens (“GlareShield™”) over either their glasses or sunglasses for protection on a consistent basis. Please help us put an end to the cycle of glare abuse now!

  18. This immediately brought to mind an image of Veruca, of Willy Wonka’s Charly in the Chocolate Factory, yelling at the Dalai Lama because, “I want Enlightenment NOW!”

    I guess many really do think Yoga is just a form of fitness training that involves moving very slowly.

  19. I don’t see the problem, at all.  The *entire point* of taking yoga classes, is so that one may call an acquaintance (via mobile device) and say “Well, gotta go, I’m late for yoga.”  Presumably, to drive the point home, the student called *from* the yoga class: not only was she late for yoga, she was tardy in notifying someone about it.  This so-called “yoga instructor” should know full well how this works.

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