Non-Member Sues Airbnb Over Allegedly Biased Booking Policies


A prospective Airbnb member has sued the home-sharing site for allegedly allowing hosts to deny booking requests to black people based on their profile photos.

Patricia Harrington, a black woman who hasn’t registered with Airbnb, filed a complaint in the Oregon Circuit Court on behalf of all black residents of Oregon who have never been members of the site.

Harrington’s case isn’t the first class action complaint against Airbnb for alleged racial bias.  Gregory Selden, a black man from Virginia, filed a lawsuit in May of last year after a host rejected his booking request but accepted one from a fictitious white man.  A federal district court in Washington D.C. ruled that Selden had to arbitrate his claims due to an arbitration clause found in Airbnb’s terms of service, which he agreed to when registering an account.

It appears that Harrington wouldn’t be bound by the arbitration clause because she didn’t sign up for the service.

Airbnb spokeswoman Laura Rillos told Bloomberg BNA that the company strongly opposes bias and helps anyone who believes he or she has been discriminated against.  “While we don’t believe this lawsuit has merit, we will continue to work tirelessly to make our community open and accessible to everyone,” Rillos said.

According to Harrington, Airbnb’s booking policies permit hosts to choose to receive booking requests only from those members who have profile photos.  Hosts can also deny requests for any reason, including race or color, she said.

Harrington said she asked Airbnb to “allow her to become a member” and to stop implementing its allegedly discriminatory policies, but to no avail.

“Airbnb refused to allow plaintiff and other African-Americans in Oregon to join under those terms and, instead, Airbnb continues to maintain a platform that discriminates against African-Americans,” Harrington said.