Consumers boycott businesses for many reasons, most of which are based on moral or political reasons. It is also possible for businesses to boycott other businesses or industries for the same reasons. However, in some cases, boycotting may qualify as bigotry or discrimination, especially when the boycott affects a specific race, practice or group of people in a discriminatory way. A relatively new Florida law is one of the first in the country to address businesses’ discriminatory boycotting of Israel.
The Florida Legislature explains that in efforts to reduce bigotry and anti-Semitism, the state of Florida will not invest in or do business with companies that boycott Israel. Additionally, the state puts such companies on a watch list and warns them that these sanctions will be in place until the companies end their discriminatory boycotting practices.
Recently, the hospitality service company Airbnb is facing potential action from Florida officials, who say that the company may be in violation of the anti-discrimination law by deciding not to list properties in the Israeli West Bank. According to the Miami Herald, spokespeople with Airbnb assert that this decision is not meant to be discriminatory, but it is because they do not want to risk doing business in occupied territories where there is a dispute between Israelis and Palestinians. However, the governor of Florida claims that Airbnb’s policy is anti-Semitic.
It is not necessarily unlawful for companies to refuse to do business with others. However, it treads a fine line when a company’s policies appear to be discriminatory or bigoted. Business owners should take care when creating policies that may result in legal action or other negative consequences.