Another Troubling Chapter for Airbnb

According to officials with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, an Airbnb host who cancelled a guest’s reservation because the guest was Asian “has agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and attend a college course in Asian-American studies.”

This is just another instance of Airbnb’s guests facing discrimination on the platform.

Why should Airbnb – and its increasingly professionalized hosts – be allowed to dodge basic civil rights laws with impunity? When will Airbnb take concrete steps to combat discrimination, rather than create PR-ploy nondiscrimination policies that simply distract from the real issue of illegal hotel operators brazenly flouting basic standards of decency and conduct?

By overwhelming margins, Americans are concerned with safety, security and accessibility for the traveling public, with zoning compliance in the communities in which lodging businesses operate and with ensuring a level and legal playing field for all.

A recent independent study by Rutgers University found that not only are Airbnb guests discriminated against due to race and ethnicity, but also due to their disabilities. As one of the lead researchers said, “Platforms like Airbnb seem to be perpetuating or increasing opportunities for exclusion, both economic and social.”

It’s past time for Airbnb to do the right thing.

No company in America should get to decide which laws they will follow. Airbnb has an obligation to crack down on the commercial operators on its “home-sharing” platform, who dodge taxes and skirt the laws that apply to every other legitimate business.