Airbnb host fined $5,000 for rejecting guest based on race.
Credit: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Dyne Suh made a reservation for a skiing weekend in Bear Mountain, California, with friends in February. The reservation had been booked a month in advance and Suh had been in contact with her host, Tami Barker, to ask a few questions about the stay.

But on the day of the reservation, while she and her friends were on their way to the mountain cabin, Suh received a text message from Barker saying, “I wouldn’t rent it to u if u were the last person on earth,” and “One word says it all. Asian.”

In April, Airbnb made an agreement with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) that allowed the regulatory state body to conduct “fair housing testing” on hosts in California who have been subject to discrimination complaints.

Suh issued a complaint with the DFEH, which prompted a separate investigation and mediation, which was settled last week.

Now Barker must pay $5,000 in damages, take a college-level Asian-American studies course, personally apologize to Suh, agree to comply with anti-discrimination laws, take part in a community education panel, and volunteer with a civil rights organization, according to The Guardian.

“We were thinking pretty creatively with this agreement,” Kevin Kish, the director of DFEH, told The Guardian. “The law tends to be backwards-looking, focusing on compensating people for harm. We’re interested in remedies that repair harm and transform relationships.”

Immediately after the incident, Suh also complained to Airbnb. The platform carried out its own investigation and permanently banned Barker from the site.

This settlement is the first time that an Airbnb host has been punished under the platform’s agreement with the DFEH.

Racism claims have plagued Airbnb over the past few years. Last year the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack prompted a 10-month investigation into racism on the platform. A study from Harvard Business School found that Airbnb hosts were 16 percent less likely to accept a reservation from black guests than white. In response, Airbnb announced in September that it was developing a dedicated team that would study discrimination on the platform.

"This behavior is abhorrent and unacceptable,” an Airbnb spokesperson said in a statement in April. “We have worked to provide the guest with our full support and in line with our non-discrimination policy, this host has been permanently removed from the Airbnb platform."