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Airbnb host ordered to pay $5,000 after racist texts canceling Asian-American guest’s reservation

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An Airbnb host must pay $5,000 and take a college-level course in Asian-American studies after telling a guest that she was canceling her reservation because she is Asian. The host also invoked President Trump.

New: This is the first time the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has resolved a case against an Airbnb host, a spokeswoman for the agency said Thursday. The state agency and Airbnb have an agreement in which the DFEH conducts testing to ensure hosts are following fair-housing laws, but spokeswoman Fahizah Alim told SiliconBeat this case arose before the Airbnb agreement was reached in April. End new

The agreement came out of an investigation by the state after it filed a complaint against the San Francisco company in 2016 over multiple allegations of racism on the home-sharing platform. The problem gave rise to the #AirbnbWhileBlack hashtag, with African-American travelers sharing their stories on social media.

In this case, Dyne Suh said she booked a cabin in Big Bear, California, in February and was only minutes away from the cabin after driving through rain and snow when she received text messages from the host, Tami Barker, canceling her reservation. The texts read: “I wouldn’t rent it to u if u were the last person on earth” and “One word says it all. Asian.”

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Barker also said in the texts: “This is why we have Trump,” as well as “And I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners.” The hostile texts were in response to Suh’s questions about whether she could pay cash for the extra fees the two had agreed on after Suh asked whether it was OK to bring along two friends and two dogs.

Suh recounted the experience in a YouTube video posted in April. She was tearful as she said “I’m an American citizen.”

Suh is a law student at UCLA, according to the DFEH’s press release. Her Facebook and LinkedIn profiles show she is a law clerk at the Riverside County Public Defender’s Office.

Suh released a statement on her Facebook page Thursday morning, in which she says that other people shouldn’t be afraid to tell their stories about racial discrimination.

“The real story is how a charged and painful encounter led to an opportunity for reconciliation between the people involved, and to an opportunity for them to enhance the public’s understanding of discrimination and civil rights in California,” said DFEH Director Kevin Kish in a statement Thursday.

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The DFEH also ordered Barker to issue a personal apology to Suh and complete community service at a civil rights organization, and she must report rental data to the state agency for four years. She was permanently banned from Airbnb in April after the company conducted an investigation into Suh’s complaint.

As for the fine, the statement by the DFEH’s general counsel, John Ichinaga, serves as a warning: “There is a monetary cost to discriminating in California: a $4,000 minimum penalty for discrimination in places of public accommodation, which the Department will seek in all appropriate cases.”

Edward Lee, Barker’s lawyer, told the Guardian, which first reported the settlement Thursday, that his client was “regretful for her impetuous actions and comments.”

When reached for comment Thursday, Airbnb referred SiliconBeat to a statement it issued in April, when it banned Barker.

“This behavior is abhorrent and unacceptable. 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.”

Photo: Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky speaks during a company media event in San Francisco on April 19, 2016. (Jeff Chiu/AP)

Tags: Airbnb, California, discrimination, racism, settlement

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