Airbnb Unites with NAACP to Combat Discrimination and Expand Room at the Inn

(image via npr.org)

by Karen Grigsby Bates via npr.org

Since its inception nearly a decade ago, Airbnb has faced questions from people of color as to whether the company’s worldwide “vacancy” sign really applied to them. The company has been plagued by allegations and several lawsuits, predominantly but not exclusively from African-Americans, claiming discrimination.

Now, as part of its attempt to turn that image around, Airbnb has announced a partnership with the NAACP. The goal is to put teeth in the home-sharing company’s anti-discrimination efforts and to expand the number of people of color who are hosts on the site. The company has revised its policies and introduced more stringent penalties for hosts found to discriminate.

A settlement in California this year involving an Asian woman resulted in the discriminatory host being banned from the site for life. A similar incident in North Carolina involved a black would-be guest. Earlier this year, Airbnb hired Laura W. Murphy, the former director of the American Civil Liberties Union‘s Washington legislative office, to help shape the new policies and put practices in place that would make Airbnb more inclusive.

The announcement comes amid the NAACP’s attempts to bring the organization closer to the younger activist audience that it hopes will be its next generation. While it continues to fight for things traditionally associated with the NAACP — voter enfranchisement, equal opportunities in education and housing — the 108-year-old organization is also stretching in new directions. The NAACP describes the Airbnb partnership as “a landmark national agreement” that will encourage more people in communities of color to consider becoming Airbnb hosts.

“Our fastest-growing communities across major U.S. cities are in communities of color and we’ve seen how home sharing is an economic lifeline for families,” Belinda Johnson, Airbnb’s chief business affairs officer, said in a statement. And it’s not just host families who benefit: the company says Airbnb guests spend money in the neighborhoods where they’re renting.

The partnership is notable in another way: Airbnb has committed to sharing 20 percent of the revenue from its community outreach efforts with the NAACP. It will also work with the NAACP to educate communities of color on the benefits and mechanics of home sharing as part of its planned outreach.

Airbnb also seeks to expand its employee base nation-wide, and has been working with the NAACP to increase the percentage of employees from underserved populations, from its current 9.6 percent to a target goal of 11 percent by the end of the year.

To read full article, go to: Airbnb Unites With NAACP To Expand Room At The Inn : Code Switch : NPR

Panera Franchisee Pays to Settle Racism Lawsuit with Black Workers

Sam Covelli, the owner of several western Pennsylvania Panera Bread restaurants is paying for allegedly discriminating against African-American workers. The franchisee will pay Guy Vines, a former employee who is the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit $10,000 and $66,000 in attorneys’ fees as part of the settlement. He’ll also pay out an extra 70 cents per hour to each member of the lawsuit for each year after their first year of employment with Covelli, according to a Courthouse News Service report.

Vines and other members of the class action lawsuit claimed they were forced to work in the kitchen because Covelli didn’t want black employees in public view, according to court documents. Vines’ attorney told the judge that about 200 to 300 black workers could be entitled to money.

In a January 2012 complaint, Vines claimed that he worked as a sandwich maker at Panera Bread from 2009 to 2011, but his manager said black workers like him were ineligible for promotion to management. The same manager also allegedly said “customers would not want to see an African-American working in the front of the store,” and feared he would lose his job for disobeying this rule.

Chief U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster in Pittsburgh made the following statement regarding the settlement.

“Here, the class members allege that they were flatly ineligible for promotion because of their race and regardless of their job performance, They allege that this prohibition, although not written down anywhere, was the rule at all of defendant’s restaurants, and that defendant’s managers disobeyed it at their peril. This question of law and fact applies evenly across the class and is sufficient to ensure that ‘the action can be practically maintained and that the interests of the absentees will be fairly and adequately represented.’”

He gave final approval last week after a fairness hearing.

Covelli Enterprises and Panera Bread did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

article by C. Daniel Baker via blackenterprise.com

Judge Overturns Three Death Sentences Under Racial Justice Act

Gov. Bev Perdue signs the Racial Justice Act

Governor Bev Perdue signs the Racial Justice Act

A North Carolina judge voided the death sentences of three convicted murderers yesterday, two of whom were African-American, citing that race played a significant role in their trial and sentencing.

Death row inmates Tilmon Golphin, Christina Walters and Quintel Augustine had their cases reviewed under the Racial Justice Act of 2009, a policy that allows death row cases to be reconsidered if relevant evidence suggests racism was a factor in the original trial. The act specifies that if race was found to be a factor in the trial, inmates’ sentences would be reduced to life in prison without parole.

Lawyers for the three convicted felons, whose cases are all unrelated, found statistical evidence along with anecdotal and documentary evidence such as handwritten notes and race-based jury selection processes, that proved that racist methods were used in deciding their fate.

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After 17 Years, Black Candidates Become Firefighters

Eighty six of the 98 new firefighters who graduated Thursday were bypassed by a discriminatory 1995 entrance exam. Sharon Wright reports.

At age 53, Marvin Jones finally became the fireman he’d always dreamed of becoming.  “It’s been a long struggle. I feel blessed. I’m almost closed to tears,” he said before walking across the stage in Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom to shake hands with Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  Jones was among 98 new firefighters who graduated Thursday, 86 of whom were overlooked by city officials who used discriminatory practices in evaluating applicant scores for a 1995 entrance exam.

“It is my hope that we never, ever make those mistakes again,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, stressing that the Chicago Fire Department should be as diverse as the city it serves.

After a series of back-and-forth legal battles over the years, Chicago was ordered in May 2011 to hire 111 black firefighters and pay a total of $30 million to nearly 6,000 clients listed in the class-action lawsuit known as the Lewis case.

Would-be firefighters who chose other career paths and those who chose to bypassed a “jobs lottery” six months later received cash awards of at least $5,000 per person.

Jones never took that payout, opting instead to follow his dream.

“We persevered. We’re here today. We’re graduating. We’re about to be Chicago firefighters,” said Jones, a postal worker for 33 years.

Source: http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/chicago-fire-department-graduation-176881481.html#ixzz2BGFsOIwY

GBN Quote Of The Day

 “Sometimes I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can anyone deny themselves the pleasure of my company?”

–Zora Neale Hurston, anthropologist and author of “Their Eyes Are Watching God”