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Airbnb faces potential legal issues for hosts’ racial bias against guests

Many of our readers have heard of the company Airbnb, which is an online marketplace allowing people to list and rent vacation homes. The San Franciscio-based company has recently been in the news regarding allegations of racial discrimination or bias against guests. The allegations were confirmed in a 90-day study conducted by a company advisor.

In response to the study, the company’s CEO announced changes in company policy earlier this month which are aimed at addressing the findings of discrimination in its home rental service. These changes include things like: de-emphasizing the role user photos play in setting up stays; streamlining the company’s process for reporting and resolving discrimination allegations; providing anti-bias training for company staff; requiring staff to meet public divert goals; and forming relationships with black colleges and universities to strengthen recruitment connections. 

One of the legal issues the company could face is whether it can be held liable for discrimination against guests, or whether the duty to avoid discrimination is delegable to hosts. Although the answer to that question remains to be answered, the company has its hands full addressing bias within its own ranks. One of the statements the company has made on the matter is that its failure to address discrimination more quickly among its hosts may have been because of the lack of diversity among its own employees. Hence its push to implement diversity goals and increase diversity in recruiting.

In our next post, we’ll continue looking at the issue of diversity at Airbnb, as well as the legalities surrounding a company’s efforts to promote diversity from within.