Sexual assault survivors can now sue Airbnb

Airbnb Inc. said it would allow hosts and guests to sue the company for sexual assault and harassment, lifting a mandatory arbitration clause that has been buried in its 40-page terms of service for more than a year. decade.

The update will be reflected in the company’s next iteration of the company’s terms of service in the fall, the company said in a statement Friday, without specifying a date.

“We believe survivors should be able to lodge a complaint with whatever forum is best for them,” the statement said. “We encourage our peers in the travel and hospitality industry to consider taking similar action for their respective communities. “

Since 2011, Airbnb’s terms of use have included a clause stipulating that any dispute arising from a stay booked on the platform will be settled by binding arbitration. All of the roughly 150 million Airbnb users had to agree to this when signing up, which means they have waived the right to sue.

The use of forced arbitration became a flashpoint in US businesses during the #MeToo movement. Many companies have started to distance themselves from this practice because of the way it protects companies from public liability.

In 2018, Airbnb, along with Microsoft Corp., Google, and Facebook Inc., removed binding arbitration in employee sexual assault and sexual harassment complaints. Sharing economy counterpart Uber Technologies Inc. has gone further by updating its terms of service to eliminate forced arbitration for passengers and drivers.

A Bloomberg Businessweek survey released in June highlighted Airbnb’s efforts to silence rape and other violent incidents – sometimes spending millions of dollars on settlement payments and using the binding arbitration clause in its terms of service. to prevent users from filing claims for damages in seeking.

Airbnb said the change to its terms of service “will codify a practice that we already have in place.” The company said that since January 2019, it has not asked a court to refer sexual assault or sexual harassment cases to arbitration. But Airbnb hasn’t made any public announcements about changing this practice or updating its terms of service.

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