Black Man’s Lawsuit Against Airbnb for Racial Discrimination Cannot Go Forward


A suit by an African-American man who tried to sue Airbnb for racial discrimination in housing cannot go forward because the room-sharing site’s arbitration policy bars users from suing, a court ruled Tuesday.

Gregory Selden alleged he tried to rent a room in Philadelphia on Airbnb in March but was told it was taken. “Smelling a rat,” in the words of the judge in the case, he created a new Airbnb profile using a photo of a white man. The host accepted the booking that had been denied when Selden’s profile showed him as a black man.

Selden launched a suit alleging racial discrimination against Airbnb on May 17.

On Tuesday the court ruled that he could not sue Airbnb because the site’s terms of service clearly state that users are bound to accept arbitration and cannot bring suit against the company.

Selden’s suit argued the sign-up procedure did not give him adequate notice that he was agreeing to Airbnb’s terms of service and so no contract was created when he clicked the box. Even if a contract had been formed, he argued that the arbitration provision did not apply to discrimination suits and was “unconscionable in any event.”

Judge Christopher Cooper of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia disagreed.

In his ruling he wrote, “No matter one’s opinion of the widespread and controversial practice of requiring consumers to relinquish their fundamental right to a jury trial — and forgo class actions — as a condition of simply participating in today’s digital economy, the applicable law is clear.”

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SOURCE: USA Today, Elizabeth Weise