Airbnb was slapped with a proposed class action in a Washington D.C. federal court Tuesday for allegedly violating the fair housing act and the civil rights of its African-American users.
The complaint alleges that 25-year-old Gregory Seldon was denied accommodation in Philadelphia in March 2015 because of his race. Seldon is filing the class action on behalf of all users who may have been discriminated on the basis of race.
Seldon claims he was looking for housing while planning a weekend getaway with friends, and decided to use Airbnb as a cost-effective housing alternative. He connected to Airbnb using his Facebook login, so it displayed his profile picture, race, education and age to the site's host agents.
He claims an Airbnb host rejected his initial application but subsequently accepted the same application when Seldon re-applied using profiles imitating white men, one under the name "Jessie" and another under the name "Todd."
This is hardly the first time Airbnb has been accused of not doing enough to combat discrimination on its platform.
The hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack went viral earlier this year, with people flocking to Twitter to share stories about discrimination they felt while using the site. A Harvard study published two years ago also found that people with "distinctly African-American sounding names" were less likely to have their applications on the site accepted than their white counterparts.
Airbnb has repeatedly denied that it condones racism on its site. The company's anti-discrimination policy states that ""content that promotes discrimination, bigotry, racism, hatred, harassment or harm against any individual or group, and we require all users to comply with local laws and regulations."