On Friday, Airbnb announced that it’s updating its Terms of Service to drop certain legal provisions for guests and hosts using its platform. In cases involving sexual assault or sexual harassment, Airbnb says, it will no longer force users to go through the company’s arbitration process—letting them sue the company directly.
In a blog post explaining the upcoming change, the company noted that these new Terms will codify policies that Airbnb informally implemented two years ago. Since January 2019, the blog notes, the company hasn’t forced arbitration on any of the “very few” sexual harassment cases raised by guests or hosts.
Per Airbnb, these new terms should be ready by this fall. And until these new Terms go into effect, Airbnb says it “will continue not to enforce our arbitration provisions as it relates to these cases.”
“We believe that survivors should be able to bring claims in whatever forum is best for them,” the blog goes on. “We encourage our industry peers within the travel and hospitality space to consider taking similar steps for their respective communities.”
Once these new policies are set in stone, they should be similar to the policies in place for Airbnb’s own employees. Since 2018, the company’s gone on record saying that it would no longer require Airbnb employees to use arbitration in cases involving sexual harassment at work. The move came around the same time that other major tech players—like Facebook, Uber, and eBay—modified their own policies to nix forced arbitration.
Airbnb’s blog goes on to say that incidents involving sexual assault are “extremely rare” on its platform, but when they crop up, the company takes them seriously and has an internal safety team specifically trained to work with victims. “This team has undergone training in trauma-informed methodology, and they prioritize supporting and empowering survivors in their healing process,” the blog notes.
While this new update is promising, it’s also one that doesn’t apply to all the different types of harassment, like the racial discrimination some guests have reported over and over again from their hosts.