Stoll Berne and Nick Kahl, LLC file discrimination class action suit against Airbnb

March 8, 2017 by

Stoll Berne and Nick Kahl LLC, filed a class action complaint in Multnomah County Circuit Court against Airbnb, Inc., alleging that Airbnb’s booking policies discriminate against African-Americans.

The complaint was filed on behalf of named plaintiff, Patricia Harrington. Ms. Harrington’s complaint alleges that Airbnb offers different services to African-Americans than it does to Caucasians. The lawsuit, Patricia Harrington, et al. v. Airbnb, Inc., seeks to compel Airbnb to offer its public accommodations free of discrimination and to enforce Oregon’s public accommodations laws.

Ms. Harrington alleges that Airbnb’s booking policies violate Oregon law by mandating that guests wishing to access accommodations available on Airbnb’s platform maintain a profile that includes a photograph and the guest’s full name. The profile photo and name of the guest are required at the time of booking and hosts are allowed to consider the booking based on those and other immutable characteristics. Some Airbnb hosts, in turn, deny booking requests from African-American guests because of their race. Because of this practice, African-American members of Airbnb do not have access to the same accommodations available to other guests, in violation of Oregon’s public accommodations laws.

Josh Ross, co-managing Shareholder of Stoll Berne, and Nick Kahl, counsel for Plaintiff and the proposed class, note that laws were enacted decades ago to prohibit discrimination in public accommodations. If the public learned that a major hotel chain would not allow guests to book rooms online without the hotel first looking at the guest’s photograph and full name, there would be outrage. In many ways, the new shared economy allows discrimination to continue in a somewhat hidden manner, but the same rules apply. Much like the public should expect to have access to online booking of hotel rooms without fear of discrimination, we ask that Airbnb, which maintains a public accommodation, follow the same practice.

Plaintiff Patricia Harrington claims Airbnb denied her request to allow her and others like her to join Airbnb free of its discriminatory policies. Airbnb refused. Because of this denial, Harrington and others are not able to access the public accommodation free of discrimination.

The case is Patricia Harrington v. Airbnb, Inc., number 17CV09710, in the Multnomah County Circuit Court, Oregon.

Joshua Ross
Josh represents clients in a wide variety of civil matters, including complex business disputes, trust and estate litigation, shareholder disputes, consumer and securities fraud actions, class actions, breach of professional and fiduciary duty, and property and contract disputes. In his trust and estate litigation practice, Josh handles matters involving misconduct by trustees or personal representatives, mismanagement of assets by those owing fiduciary obligations, claims concerning capacity to amend estate plans, and undue influence by interested parties. Josh serves as an arbitrator for Multnomah County Circuit Court and with Arbitration Service of Portland. From 2013 to 2016, Josh served on the Oregon State Bar Board of Governors and he has volunteered with Legal Aid's Domestic Violence Project since 2007. Josh’s straightforward manner belies his passion for finding the winning argument for his clients. At his core, Josh believes in his clients’ cause, and approaches litigation with equal parts intellect, empathy, and conviction.

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