An Airbnb host near Big Bear, California, who cancelled reservations last-minute and blamed the user’s ethnicity, must now take an Asian American studies course and pay $US5000 ($6512).
“I wouldn’t rent it to u if u were the last person on earth,” “One word says it all. Asian,” and “It’s why we have trump… I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners,” were some of the messages that then-25-year-old law student Dyne Suh received from host Tami Barker, as Suh and her friends neared the cabin where they planned to stay for a long weekend in February.
Suh had initially only reserved the rental for her and her fiancé, but later asked Barker if two friends and two dogs could also join. Barker agreed to the request but asked for an additional $US50 ($65) per night. But when Suh texted Barker to tell her they were arriving — after the group had driven from Riverside, California to Big Bear — Barker denied that she had agreed to the additional guests, then called Suh a con artist before berating her with racist remarks.
Suh emotionally recounted the incident in a video that was widely shared in April. Airbnb banned the host and Airbnb spokesperson Nick Papas released a statement to news outlets calling Barker’s behaviour “abhorrent and unacceptable”. The company also issued Suh a full refund and offered to reimburse for a hotel.
The Guardian first reported the penalisation, which is the first time an Airbnb host has been punished for discrimination under a recent agreement between the home-sharing company and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), which allows officials to perform fair-housing tests on Airbnb rentals. The agreement came after a 10-month investigation that was largely inspired by a Harvard study showing people with “African American names” have more difficulty booking on Airbnb than people with “white names”, which got a major signal boost from the hashtag, #AirbnbWhileBlack.
DFEH investigated Suh’s case and assisted with mediations between Suh and Barker. The stipulation of Barker attending a university-level Asian American course came out of mediation sessions.