An AirBnB host, who had canceled an Asian woman's booking at the last moment because of her race has been directed to pay $5000 in damages to the guest by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The incident took place in February this year and left the guest distraught after she was informed about the cancellation via text when she was on her way to the location.

Just desserts

Tami Barker, the Airbnb host, runs a cabin in Big Bear in California and is primarily rented by people who go on skiing trips in the area. However, back in February this year, she canceled the booking by one Dyne Suh at the last moment and told her that the booking was being canceled because she was Asian.

In a text message, Barker said, “One word says it all. Asian”. In another note, she stated that she would not rent her property to Suh even if she were "the last person on earth.”

However, an agreement between Airbnb and California Department of Fair Employment and Housing now allows the latter to penalize hosts who discriminate on racial lines. According to the agreement reached last week, Tami Barker has been ordered to pay $5000 in damages and has also been asked to do a course on Asian American studies by the DFEH. It is the first such penalty that has been handed out and will act as a warning for any racially prejudiced person, who might be considering signing up as an Airbnb hosts.

An unpleasant experience

The actual incident turned out to be a particularly unpleasant experience for Dyne Suh, who had planned a weekend trip to Big Bear with three friends. They had driven to Big Bear braving rain and snow but as soon as she confirmed her booking, she received a text from Barker which explained why her booking was being canceled and needless to say, a potentially enjoyable weekend turned into a harrowing one.

Suh then shared her grief by posting a video on YouTube and also showed screen grabs of the texts that she had received from Barker. She said, “It stings that after living in the US for over 23 years this is what happens. No matter if I follow the law ... no matter how well I treat others, it doesn’t matter. If you’re Asian, you’re less than human and people can treat you like trash.” Director of DFEH, Kevin Kish stated that instead of merely penalizing the offender with compensatory payments, it was important to opt for remedial measures and hence Tami Barker has been ordered to complete a course in Asian American Studies so that she overcomes her prejudices.