- After a routine internal review of its legal responsibilities, online job-search vendor Monster last week deleted job postings and client resumes for residents in seven countries listed by the US government as sanctioned nations with whom trade is illegal.
Kevin Mullins, a spokesman for Maynard, Massachusetts-based Monster, formerly known as Monster.com, says the resumes and job postings were pulled after a regularly-scheduled company legal review found that the listings are in violation of US.Department of the Treasury regulations banning business dealings with sanctioned nations. The list is kept by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Clients who live in the affected nations -- Cuba, Burma/Myanmar, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria and North Korea -- were notified last week by email that their resumes would be removed from the site, Mullins says. Companies from those nations that had posted job offers were also notified that their listings would be removed.
The exact number of removed listings isn't known, Mullins says, but could total a few thousand. The company says it typically features more than 800,000 job postings on its site at any one time.
"We did it to comply with the regulations. It wasn't a direct result of anything specific" and was not done at the request or direction of any government agency, he says.
Taylor Griffin, a spokesman for the Treasury Department, says the sanctions against many of the nations on the list, such as Cuba, have been in place for decades.
"Most companies have known about them for years," Griffin says.
"Individual companies take appropriate steps to institute policies to comply with those sanctions. It seems to me that's what happened here."
Violations of the regulations are subject to criminal penalties, including fines of up to $US1 million and prison terms of up to 12 years.
An attorney for Monster says that two main provisions of the sanction regulations prohibit the exporting of services to countries on the list and ban US citizens from aiding or engaging in transactions with people in those nations.
"Like all good corporate citizens, Monster is constantly reviewing its policies and procedures to ensure it's in compliance with the law," said the attorney, who asked not to be named. Monster "found it to be important to formulate a policy ... that errs on the side of caution."
The Monster action, however, was criticised by Will Doherty, media relations director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit digital rights group.
"Simply removing certain countries that can be specified in a resume is an inappropriate response to federal law," he says.
"We're in favour of free speech, and therefore we believe no federal law should prohibit people from communicating their country of origin or where they work," Doherty says. Even if people live in the countries on the Treasury Department list, he says, they shouldn't be stopped from trying to seek jobs in another nation.
Technology attorneys, though, say they understand the legal thinking behind Monster's actions.
Hillard Sterling, an attorney at Much Shelist Freed Denenberg Ament & Rubenstein PC in Chicago, calls the removal of the postings "a wise pre-emptive strike" to avoid any potential legal tangles over the sanctions.
"It's wise to bend over backward to avoid problems with the government. Nevertheless, it remains troubling when companies alter their conduct without even a hint of government action."
Steve Becker, an international trade lawyer at Shaw Pittman in Washington, says companies are better off taking such action before the government investigates or prosecutes a potential case.
Companies often start out small and don't even realise they have regulations like these to live with until they are much larger, Becker says. "It just hadn't occurred to anyone that they had to do a screening," he says.
"It sounds like what they did was quite prudent and responsible and normal," Becker says. "It took them a while to catch on to this ... but in my experience, I don't find it shocking."