AirBnB is facing a class-action lawsuit, spearheaded by 25-year-old Gregory Selden who says the company violated his civil rights by failing to protect users from discrimination.
He claims that an Airbnb host denied him accommodations when he requested a booking under his personal profile, which included a photo of his African-American self, but accepted the booking when he applied using two fake profiles of white men. Gregory says he went to Airbnb with the issue, but he claims the company ignored him.
via CNN Money:
When Selden questioned the host, he told a local NBC station that he received this response: “It’s a disappointment people like you always victimize yourselves solely on the basis of skin color.”
The suit accuses Airbnb of denying Selden “full and equal enjoyment” of lodging and services because of his race.
“Under the Civil Rights laws, Airbnb qualifies as public accommodation. Airbnb serves essentially the same function as a hotel,” attorney Ike Emejuru told CNNMoney. “We are confident that there are numerous persons out there who will potentially join the class.”
Selden’s suit seeks class action status, and he doesn’t appear to be alone in his claims.
Gregory’s story went semi-viral as other users of the service shared similar stories under the hashtag, #AirbnbWhileblack. A study from Harvard University last year found that Airbnb hosts are less likely to rent to people with “black”-sounding names.
This #AirbnbWhileBlack thing…just got denied another spot in BK. ????????????????
— Gene “GD” Demby (@GeeDee215) May 19, 2016
And as a black male i still cant book one. #AirBNBWhileBlack https://t.co/vZG13Pi9FS
— Margarita Madman (@SynKami) May 14, 2016
I wear my Army uniform in my profile pic cuz I’m less likely to be discriminated against for being a veteran #AirbnbWhileBlack
— Swae Les (@LesIzMore) May 14, 2016
Airbnb has acknowledged the problem and said it’s trying to address the issues.
“While we do not comment on pending litigation, we strongly believe that racial discrimination is unacceptable and it flies in the face of our mission to bring people together,” Airbnb spokesman Nick Papas said in a statement.
We can’t help but think that a simple solution to this would be to do-away with profile photos until the company figures out a better way to combat discrimination.