Airbnb Was Like a Family, Until the Layoffs Started

An Airbnb spokesman said that the groups focused on user safety were the same size as before the layoffs and that the company assessed its support staffing levels daily. “Brian has always made clear that safety is our priority,” he said.

During that time, Leonardo Baca, an information technology professional who was laid off, joined colleagues to attend a virtual magic performance presented by Airbnb Experience — part of the company’s activities booking service, which had moved online because of the virus. It was meant to be a team-building exercise but instead became a goodbye party.

Some laid-off colleagues were devastated, Mr. Baca said, while those who remained expressed dismay over why they had been spared. “We don’t know why people were cut,” he said. “You lose a piece of the team.”

Later, on a Slack channel for former employees, some lamented that Airbnb was gutting its culture, according to messages viewed by The New York Times. In June, an Airbnb contractor who had recently been let go wrote an editorial for Wired that quoted peers calling the company “hypocritical” for its “remarkably callous” treatment of contract labor during the pandemic.

An Airbnb spokesman said its contractors “were more than contractors, they were our teammates and friends.” He said the company had provided them two weeks of pay and other benefits.

Other issues bubbled up. In a chat room for female Airbnb employees after the layoffs, one laid-off worker described three instances of sexual harassment while at the company, saying that human resources was unhelpful and that co-workers brushed it off, according to an image of the conversation viewed by The Times. The latter, the person wrote, “hurt the most.”

The company said it does not tolerate harassment and discrimination and investigates all claims.

Last month, some employees in Airbnb’s China division sent a letter to management outlining what they said was inappropriate behavior by Yanxin Shi, engineering director for its China business, according to one of the employees responsible for the letter, which The Times viewed. They alleged that Mr. Shi had ranked female colleagues by attractiveness and had said he didn’t believe in the company’s “core values” but could perform them well enough to pass the job interview and teach others to do the same.