Airbnb Removes Sexual Assault Arbitration Clause, Allowing Hosts And Guests To Sue The Company

Heading into 2021 with the tailwind of lockdowns and travel restrictions finally loosening (at least for now), Airbnb is signaling to hosts and guests that it can now be sued for sexual assault and harassment, replacing an arbitration clause that’s been in place for “more than a decade”. 

The new update takes effect in the fall, Bloomberg wrote last week

The company said in a statement: “We believe that survivors should be able to bring claims in whatever forum is best for them. We encourage our industry peers within the travel and hospitality space to consider taking similar steps for their respective communities.”

Bloomberg had previously reported on violent crimes that had taken place at Airbnb listings. That report pointed out that Airbnb had spent millions of dollars on settlement payouts and had used its binding arbitration clause as a shield from being sued.

Since 2011, Airbnb’s terms of service have stated that “any dispute arising out of a stay booked on the platform will be settled through binding arbitration,” Bloomberg noted.

This stood at odds with the ethos of the #MeToo movement that has been sweeping the country over the last few years. Previously, Airbnb had joined companies like Microsoft and Google in removing binding arbitration in sexual assault and sexual harassment claims filed by employees, the report notes.

Its new terms of service “will codify a practice we have already had in place,” the company said, noting that since January 2019 it hadn’t asked a court to throw out a lawsuit in favor of arbitration.