Airbnb host who canceled booking over race fined $5K, ordered to attend Asian-American studies class
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has ordered an Airbnb host to pay a fine and attend an Asian-American studies class for breaking state fair housing laws, the Guardian reported Thursday.
Host Tami Barker, whose racist comments to an Asian-American law student were widely reported in February, has been ordered to pay $5,000, take a college-level course in Asian-American studies, volunteer with a civil rights organization, participate in an unspecified community panel, apologize to the guest and refrain from breaking anti-discrimination laws.
It’s the first regulatory penalty handed down since Airbnb agreed in May that the department would audit its hosts whose guests complain about racial discrimination.
In February, Barker canceled a booking from Dyne Suh, then a student at the UCLA School of Law. As the Los Angeles Times reported, Suh, her fiancé and two friends were making their way to Barker’s mountain cabin in a snowstorm, and Suh messaged Barker to let her know they were nearby.
But Barker became angry that Suh had added extra people to the booking, even though the two had agreed to that in advance. When Suh protested, Barker texted that “I wouldn’t rent to u if you were the last person on earth. One word says it all. Asian.”
When Suh told Barker she would report the conversation to Airbnb, Barker replied with “It’s why we have trump… And I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners.”
Suh, a U.S. citizen who has lived in this country since she was 3 years old, happened upon a television news crew on the mountain to report on the bad weather. She gave an interview about the cancellation, including Suh’s screenshots of the conversation with Barker that got widespread attention online.
Suh ultimately complained to Airbnb—which banned Barker as a host—and DFEH.
Kevin Kish, director of DFEH, told the Guardian that the agency called both parties to mediation, and the idea of attending an Asian-American studies course came out of those sessions.
“We were thinking pretty creatively with this agreement,” Kish 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. … Humans have biases and we also need to recognize that humans change.”
Airbnb did not comment. Barker’s attorney, Edward Lee, said Barker regretted “her impetuous actions and comments” and is pleased to resolve the matter.