Business Technology

Sunday 23 October 2016

Airbnb host banned for denying transgender woman room after viral tweet

Chiara Palazzo

Published 07/06/2016 | 07:18

AirBnb Photo: Getty
AirBnb Photo: Getty

Airbnb is facing an outcry after a transgender guest stated she was denied a stay by a host because of her gender identity.

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Shadi Petrosky, a well-known Hollywood producer, on Sunday tweeted a screenshot of a Minneapolis-based host denying her a stay because she did not want her 13-year-old son to "feel any discomfort in his own home," but thanked Ms Petrosky for her "honesty."

Ms Petrosky said she had privately complained to Airbnb in 2015, but rather than removing the host, the company upgraded her to “super host” status, which rewards more experienced hosts with multiple five-star reviews from their guests.

It took a viral post, that at the time of writing has been retweeted over a thousand times, for the company to take action. On Monday the host was finally suspended. 

“Discrimination has no place in the Airbnb community. We are removing this host from Airbnb,” spokesman Nick Papas said in a statement. The company is also reviewing the incident.

Last week, Airbnb released a memo stating it was launching an internal review to see what else it can do to battle discrimination. It has asked Laura Murphy, former head of the ACLU’s DC office, to lead the project. It’s also offering unconscious bias training to employees and some hosts.

The Hollywood producer clarified on Twitter that she decided to share the episode now because the company is being accused of failing to address complaints of racial discrimination.

In a posts following the viral tweet Ms Petrosky, now a self-proclaimed "accidental transsexual travel activist," pointed out that the house-sharing company has no LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex) non-discrimination policy.

Airbnb's anti-discrimination policy states: “We prohibit content that promotes discrimination, bigotry, racism, hatred, harassment or harm against any individual or group.” It does not specify discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identification.

The company does point out that many countries have laws against discrimination based on “race, religion, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, or age,” and says that hosts are required to obey local laws.

North Carolina and Mississippi have recently passed laws allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBT people and the so-called “bathroom law” – a ruling that transgender people must use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender on their birth certificate.

Black guests have been complaining they are regularly denied accommodation because of their race and have been sharing stories under the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack.

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