Airbnb host fined $5,000 for canceling a reservation with a racist comment

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An Airbnb host has been fined $5,000 for racial discrimination and will have to take a course in Asian-American studies after canceling a woman’s reservation because of her ethnicity, reports The Guardian. It’s the first time an Airbnb host has been penalized after California regulators passed an agreement that allows officials to test Airbnb hosts for racial discrimination earlier this year.

In February, Dyne Suh, a 26-year-old law clerk, had booked a mountain cabin in Big Bear, California, for $250 a night from Tami Barker for a skiing weekend with friends. Suh had asked Barker if she could bring two friends and two dogs, and Barker agreed on the condition Suh pay an extra $50 per night.

But Barker reportedly texted Suh to cancel the reservation “minutes before they arrived,” writing, “I wouldn’t rent it to u if u were the last person on earth,” and “One word says it all. Asian.”

In a video posted on YouTube, Suh can be seen tearfully recounting her story.

“She [Barker] said ‘This is why we have Trump, we can’t have foreigners tell us what to do’ she said that to me. I’m an American citizen, this is my home, I’ve been here since I was three years old,” Suh said.

“Racism is very much alive. It exists. It can happen to anyone. There’s no balance to racism no matter what class you are, no matter what your education level, no matter if you’re an American citizen, what they see is that I’m Asian, what they see is my race, and this is how we get treated.”

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Suh complained to both Airbnb and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Airbnb has banned Barker from using its services, while the department investigated and helped with mediation talks between both parties.

Barker’s lawyer Edward Lee said his client was “regretful for her impetuous actions.”

It’s not the first time Airbnb was involved with allegations of racism. Last November, the platform successfully blocked a proposed class action alleging systemic discrimination by Airbnb hosts, enabled by various design choices made by the company. The lawsuit alleged Airbnb’s commercial design disproportionately impacts African-Americans seeking accommodation.

Airbnb implemented a non-discrimination policy in October 2016 and hosts now have to agree to its community commitment.

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