Federal Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss in Airbnb Class Action Discrimination Case

October 30, 2018

On October 30, 2018, Judge Michael Simon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon denied Airbnb’s motion to dismiss a class action lawsuit, which alleges that Airbnb acted with discriminatory intent by creating and maintaining policies that allow Airbnb hosts to make booking decisions using information such as photographs of prospective guests. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit claims that Airbnb intentionally makes many of the accommodations listed on its platform unavailable to African-Americans through those policies, which enable hosts to refuse service to prospective guests who are African-American. The case will now proceed to discovery.

“We are pleased with the Court’s decision, which correctly finds that our lawsuit alleges intentional discrimination by Airbnb,” said Nick Kahl, counsel for plaintiffs. “In the lawsuit, we’ve alleged that Airbnb repeatedly reaffirmed and recommitted to its discriminatory policies that allow hosts to deny African-Americans access to public accommodations. In doing so, Airbnb made a calculated decision to tolerate racial discrimination rather than risk losing business, and it also enabled and furthered racial discrimination on its platform. We look forward to proving these allegations through discovery and at trial.”

Stoll Berne attorneys Yoona Park and Joshua Ross and Nick Kahl LLC filed the class action complaint in March 2017. The complaint alleges that Airbnb offers different services to African-Americans than it does to Caucasians and seeks to compel Airbnb to offer its public accommodations free of discrimination.

The class asserts 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-Americans do not have access to the same accommodations available to other guests, in violation of Oregon’s public accommodations laws.

Stoll Berne Shareholder Joshua Ross commented that “Airbnb justifies its discriminatory policies by claiming that providing members access to photographs of potential guests prior to booking a reservation allows hosts to decide if the guest is ‘reliable, authentic, and committed to the spirit of Airbnb.’ We intend to show that Airbnb’s justifications for those policies are pure pretext and that looking at a photograph of a person’s face as part of the booking decision does not reveal any meaningful information about that person. We are pleased that the Court has denied Airbnb’s attempts to dismiss this important case.”

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