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Discrimination and the Sharing Economy

Discrimination and the Sharing Economy

The United States has, over many decades, grappled with discrimination issues. The current social and political climate with regard to racial discrimination, age discrimination, gender identity, and even sexual orientation only seems new because the media and the Internet make it seem so.

Earlier this year a transgender woman was denied a room by an Airbnb host. A blind woman with a service dog was denied a ride by an Uber driver. Fortune.com recently wrote about all forms of discrimination in the sharing economy.

There is a murky line between federal anti-discrimination laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the rights of private citizens to decide with whom they will interact.  Cases are making their way through various state and federal jurisdictions trying to determine where one person’s rights end and another’s begin.

Despite the unanswered questions of legality, lawsuits on the topic are being filed every week. If you drive for a ridesharing service or list your home on a homesharing site, this is what you need to know about insurance coverage in the event of a discrimination claim.

Auto Insurance & Discrimination

Is there coverage for discrimination on your auto insurance policy? This one has an easy answer: there is no coverage for discrimination under the Personal Auto Policy (PP0001). The liability portion of the policy states it will pay for bodily injury claims as the result of an auto accident and does not contemplate non-accidental injury.

In additional, there is an exclusion for intentional injury, as well as the standard exclusion for injury caused by vehicles being used as livery or public conveyance. Some hybrid insurance policies may offer coverage for injury during livery usage, but this would most likely not extend to discrimination.

Homeowners Insurance & Discrimination

The Homeowners 3 – Special Form (HO-3) does not specifically address either discrimination or personal injury as a rule. However, there are several places in the policy where this might be excluded such as:

  1. Section II – Excludes liability coverage for motor vehicles, and specifically for those vehicles used “to carry persons or cargo for a charge” (ridesharing).
  2. Coverage E – Personal Liability excludes Expected or Intended Injury, and it could certainly be argued in court that discrimination was expected or intended (ridesharing or homesharing).
  3. Coverage E – Personal Liability excludes Business, especially if the bodily injury occurred by either act or omission in connection with an expectation or promise of services to be rendered in that nature of business (ridesharing or homesharing).

The expectation should be that your homeowners insurance or comprehensive personal liability policy would exclude discrimination claims.

Coverage Through The Sharing Service

Large companies such as Uber and AirBnB undoubtedly have Commercial General Liability insurance policies that cover them against bodily injury and property damage claims, including those for personal & advertising injury. Do those policies also cover their independent contractors or platform users?  Hard to say.

Uber’s discrimination policy advises that users found to be in violation of the policy will “lose access to the platform”. AirBnb’s official stance is that platform users should follow local, state, and federal laws, but does not indicate the consequences of discriminatory practices. They advise not to use such statements in a listing and even offer a discrimination reporting service. Similar ridesharing and homesharing services have similar policies.

The Uber driver who refused service to the blind woman with her service animal was released from his contract with Uber and banned from using the ridesharing platform. It is unclear at this time whether the suit filed against him will be defended by Uber, though that is unlikely.

The best strategy when participating in the sharing economy is to avoid even the idea of discrimination in your dealings. To do so may open you up to lawsuits you will financially not be able to defend. For more information, contact Hayes Brokers for a free risk management analysis.

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