An Airbnb Inc. host who refused to rent her Southern California house to a woman because she is Asian will pay $5,000 in damages and take a college-level course in Asian-American studies, the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing said Thursday in announcing the agreement.
The host, Tami Barker, rescinded UCLA School of Law student Dyne Suh’s reservations for a February stay in a Big Bear cabin, telling her in a message via the Airbnb application: “I wouldn’t rent to u if u were the last person on earth,” and “One word says it all. Asian.”
A distraught Suh, who had been driving to the cabin in a snowstorm, posted a video from the side of the road on YouTube showing Barker’s messages.
“I’ve been here since I was three-years-old,” she said. “America is my home. I consider myself an American. But this woman discriminates against me because I’m Asian.”
The video went viral. Airbnb banned Barker from its platform, and the company separately reached its own agreement with the state in April over alleged discriminatory practices by hosts. The agreement detailed 10 pages of changes the short-term rental platform must make, or must consider making, including developing a system of “progressive discipline” for discriminatory hosts.”
As part of Barker’s resolution with the state, she apologized to Suh and agreed to appear on a community education panel, to perform volunteer service at a civil rights organization and to report rental information to the state over four years.
Barker’s attorney, Edward Lee of the Law Offices of Edward Y. Lee in Los Angeles, said in an email that the owner is “regretful for her impetuous actions and comments made on the evening of Feb. 17, 2017.” Barker “is pleased to have resolved her claims with Ms. Dyne Suh and the DFEH in a manner that can hopefully bring a positive outcome out of an unfortunate incident,” Lee said.
Kevin Kish, director of the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, lauded Suh for filing a complaint with his office. “We are also heartened by [Barker’s] willingness to embrace corrective measures that are forward-looking and restorative,” he said.
Already targeted by complaints that hosts were rejecting renters of color, Airbnb last year retained former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr., now a Covington & Burling partner, to draft a policy addressing discrimination by site users.
Suh’s YouTube video is posted below.