Settlement Reached in Airbnb Discrimination Case

August 13, 2019

plaintiff photo, Josh Ross, Carlotta Franklin holding photo of Pat Harrington (deceased), Ebony Price, and Nick Kahl
Pictured left to right: Josh Ross, Carlotta Franklin (holding photo of Pat Harrington, deceased), Ebony Price, Nick Kahl

Plaintiffs and Airbnb have reached a settlement in a lawsuit, filed in March 2017, alleging that Airbnb’s policies allowed its hosts to discriminate against African Americans and deny them access to accommodations by using guests’ photographs and full names to review reservation requests in violation of Oregon’s Public Accommodation laws. Plaintiffs Ebony Price and Carlotta Franklin are represented by attorney Nick Kahl and Stoll Berne attorneys Joshua Ross and Yoona Park.

In 2016, Airbnb publicly committed to take steps to combat bias and discrimination by requiring all hosts to accept a non-discrimination pledge and creating a permanent anti-discrimination team focused on enhancing enforcement standards and making product improvements. Plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in March 2017. At the time the lawsuit was filed, Airbnb allowed profile photos and names to be displayed to hosts during the booking process. In October 2018, Airbnb announced that it would no longer allow guest profile photos to be displayed to hosts prior to the acceptance of a booking request by a host.

“When we filed this lawsuit, our client Pat Harrington put her name on this lawsuit because she believed that her voice could help bring about positive social change,” Nick Kahl, attorney for Plaintiffs noted. “We were honored to have known and represented Pat, who sadly passed in early 2018, and we know she would be very proud of the results of the lawsuit.”

As part of the settlement announced today, Airbnb has agreed to continue implementation of its 2018 changes relating to the use of profile photographs incident to the booking process. In addition, Airbnb has agreed to review and update the way profile names are displayed to hosts as part of the booking process. In a separate public statement, Airbnb stated that: “Our mission is to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere and we are always working to fight bias and discrimination. We have made strides and are committed to continuous review and improvements to ensure our community is diverse and inclusive.”

Josh Ross of Stoll Berne, counsel for plaintiffs, said “we are pleased that Airbnb worked collaboratively with us to find real solutions to address the concerns raised by the lawsuit. The changes Airbnb has agreed to implement will ultimately reduce, and hopefully someday eliminate, discrimination on the platform. Airbnb can be proud to serve as a model for other businesses operating in the shared economy.”

Plaintiffs Ebony Price and Carlotta Franklin stated, “Civil rights leaders have fought for equality by seeking to eliminate bias in accommodations for decades. We believe this is another important step in that fight in the context of the sharing economy. We are proud to have been part of this effort and we thank our lawyers and Airbnb for their continued efforts to combat discrimination.”

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