Oregon federal district judge Michael Simon denied a motion to dismiss an Oregon class action lawsuit that alleges Airbnb allows discrimination against black users. The lawsuit contends the vacation rental website, which connects homeowners with travelers looking to rent a room, allows the homeowners to discriminate by requiring would-be guests to register with their full name and a photograph. Since the lawsuit was filed, the company changed the policy to only allow homeowners to see the photographs after the unit has been rented.
Attorneys representing three African American women argue the policy violates the Oregon Public Accommodations Act. The decades-old law prohibits restaurants, hotels and other businesses from turning people away based on characteristics including race.
Airbnb moved to dismiss the case, saying the women, who refuse to use Airbnb until it changes its photograph policy, haven’t proven discrimination. It also argues the rooms for rent aren’t public accommodations under the law because they’re in private homes.
U.S. District Judge Michael Simon found the case had sufficient merit to move forward and denied Airbnb’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. He ruled it’s irrelevant that Airbnb doesn’t own the accommodations.
A 2016 Harvard Business School study found that Airbnb guests with names that sounded African American were 16 percent less likely to be accepted by a host than those whose names sounded white.
This blog is intended to provide information to the general public and to practitioners about developments that may impact Oregon class actions.