Airbnb host fined for racial discrimination

In February, Dyne Suh tried to rent an Airbnb near Big Bear Lake, California but was denied by the host who said it was because she was Asian. This week, she got satisfaction as the Airbnb host was fined US$5,000 (S$6,800).
Airbnb host Tami Barker cancelled Ms Dyne Suh's (above) reservation for a mountain cabin minutes before she and her friends arrived for a skiing weekend. Ms Barker was fined and banned by Airbnb, and she would have to attend a course on Asian America
Airbnb host Tami Barker cancelled Ms Dyne Suh's (above) reservation for a mountain cabin minutes before she and her friends arrived for a skiing weekend. Ms Barker was fined and banned by Airbnb, and she would have to attend a course on Asian American studies.PHOTO: YOUTUBE SCREENGRAB

Californian home owner cancels booking because guest is 'Asian'

CALIFORNIA • An Airbnb host in California was fined US$5,000 (S$6,900) for racial discrimination and ordered to attend a course in Asian American studies after cancelling a woman's reservation because she was Asian, The Guardian reported.

Ms Dyne Suh, who had booked Ms Tami Barker's mountain cabin in Big Bear Lake via the home-sharing platform for a skiing weekend with her friends in February, was told the reservation had been cancelled just minutes before they arrived.

The reservation was cancelled after an apparent dispute between Ms Suh and Ms Barker over Ms Suh's request to bring additional guests.

In a message sent to Ms Suh via the Airbnb app, Ms Barker wrote: "I wouldn't rent it to u if u were the last person on earth" and "One word says it all. Asian."

After Ms Suh said she would complain about the remark to Airbnb, Ms Barker replied: "It's why we have (United States President Donald) Trump… and I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners."

Airbnb allows people to lease or rent their homes to travellers globally. The Guardian report on Thursday said the incident is the first time an Airbnb host has been penalised for racial discrimination.

EMPHATIC NO

I wouldn't rent it to u if u were the last person on earth. One word says it all. Asian. It's why we have (United States President Donald) Trump… and I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners.

MS TAMI BARKER, the home owner, in a message via the Airbnb app

The fine was imposed under a landmark agreement between Airbnb and California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which allows the department to penalise Airbnb hosts who have discrimination complaints against them.

The incident comes after reports from some Airbnb users who said they faced problems securing bookings or had their reservations cancelled due to racial discrimination.

A Harvard University study in 2015 also found that guests with African American-sounding names faced more difficulties trying to rent rooms through the platform.

HURTFUL TREATMENT

It stings that after living in the US for over 23 years, this is what happens... No matter how well I treat others, it doesn't matter. If you're Asian, you're less than human. People can treat you like trash.

MS DYNE SUH, the guest left out in the cold

US$250 a night. She later asked to bring two friends and two dogs along - a request agreed to by Ms Barker for an additional US$50 a night.

But on the day they arrived, after Ms Suh texted to say she was nearby and to confirm the cost of the stay, Ms Barker denied agreeing to the request.

In a video recorded immediately after the incident, a tearful Ms Suh said: "It stings that after living in the US for over 23 years, this is what happens. I just feel so hurt.

"People thought: 'Oh, with the election of (former) president (Barack) Obama, racism is over in this country.' No, it's very much alive, it exists and it could happen to anyone."

She added: "No matter how well I treat others, it doesn't matter. If you're Asian, you're less than human. People can treat you like trash."

Ms Suh lodged a complaint with Airbnb, which carried out a probe and banned Ms Barker. Another complaint was also lodged with the Fair Employment Department and an agreement was reached last week to have Ms Barker attend the course on Asian American studies.

Ms Barker's lawyer told The Guardian she regretted her behaviour, adding that she hoped the department's action will be a "positive outcome out of an unfortunate incident".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2017, with the headline 'Airbnb host fined for racial discrimination'. Print Edition | Subscribe