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Airbnb updating policy to end forced arbitration for sexual harassment cases for guests, hosts

The company said it has not enforced the policy since 2019

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Airbnb is updating its arbitration policy
Photo by Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Airbnb said Friday it will change its terms of service so that its arbitration provisions “will no longer apply to sexual assault or sexual harassment claims” by its hosts (the people who rent out their homes on the platform) and guests.

The company said in a statement that “incidents of sexual assault are extremely rare on Airbnb,” and that the upcoming changes would “codify a practice we have already had in place.” Airbnb has not “asked a court fo force any of the very few cases involving sexual assault or sexual harassment claims by hosts or guests into arbitration” since January of 2019, and will continue to not enforce arbitration in such cases until the TOS are updated sometime in the fall.

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

The company said the policy is specific to sexual assault and sexual harassment; the statement does not mention other forms of harassment.

Airbnb’s Trust and Safety team was highlighted in a June report from Bloomberg, which described how the company handles incidents that involve law enforcement, noting that the company’s business model “rests on the idea that strangers can trust one another.”

The arbitration policy, once official, will resemble Airbnb’s policy for employees; the company said in 2018 that it wouldn’t require arbitration for sexual harassment cases involving employees. This came around the same time other tech platforms — including eBay, Facebook, Microsoft, and Uber— modified their policies to do away with forced arbitration.