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Monster backpedals on listings purge

Amid protests from Arab-American groups, the career Web site partially backs away from a decision to exclude references to job postings and résumés from seven countries.

WASHINGTON--Monster.com, the popular career Web site, has partially backed away from a decision to limit which nations could be listed on résumés and job postings.

Citing a desire to comply with federal laws, Monster this week deleted some references to seven federally sanctioned countries from job listings and résumés. Iran, Syria, Sudan, Myanmar, Cuba, Libya and North Korea are on the list.

Now Monster has relented, at least in part. By the middle of next week, it now will permit its customers to describe where they went to school--using the Web site's pull-down menus--even if it was in one of the seven sanctioned nations. But people will continue to be prohibited from selecting a sanctioned country as a place they'd like to work.

Arab-American groups have protested the policy shift as not required by federal laws, which restrict U.S. companies' ability to provide services to sanctioned countries. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington said it had contacted the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and learned that Monster was not required to alter résumés at all.

"This is not a complete retraction of their policy because individuals with addresses in these countries are still being affected," a National Iranian American Council (NIAC) representative said Friday. "However, it's a step in the right direction."

NIAC's Web site highlights Monster's actions and warns of a potential boycott. "Iranian-American executives have urged NIAC to encourage Iranian-American employers and employees to notify Monster.com of a possible boycott in order to prevent Monster's actions from becoming common practice in corporate America," the site states.

Monster's current policy will not affect textual descriptions of jobs that customers type in themselves, such as a description by a U.S. photographer of work that involved a trip to Myanmar, the country formerly known as Burma. Instead, the career site has removed those seven nations from pop-up lists of countries that customers use to construct their listings.

Monster Kevin Mullins said, however, that if the company learned that a job seeker had expressed a desire to work in Iran or any other sanctioned country, that person's résumé could be removed. "We'll have to evaluate when they come up on a case-by-case basis," Mullins said.

Scott Maberry, an attorney of counsel to the Fulbright and Jaworski law firm that is representing Monster, pointed to Treasury Department OFAC regulations that say the sale "of any goods, technology, or services to Iran or the Government of Iran is prohibited." Maberry said similar regulations exist for the other six nations on the list and warned that the Bush administration could view "services" broadly enough to cover providing job ads and résumé distribution.

"We live in a different world now," Maberry said. "The U.S. government, including OFAC, is ever more active in identifying and addressing national-security and foreign-policy threats."

Monster said it has asked OFAC for guidance and received a reply, but refused to make the reply public. "Monster has never, and will never, discriminate against individuals based on their ethnic origin or background," Mullins said. "Millions of job seekers from all over the world use Monster to advance their careers and their lives--we would never engage in any discriminatory practices."

Monster's parent company is TMP Worldwide. Its shares closed Friday at $13.48, down 42 cents.