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Monster.com's resume purge draws fire

In a move the company claims is designed to comply with federal regulations, the job-search site will delete most references to job postings and resumes from seven countries.

WASHINGTON--Job-hunters at Monster.com who happened to go to school in Syria or Iran may be in for an unpleasant surprise on Thursday.

So might employers that use the popular job-search site, which boasts more than 800,000 job postings, to advertise open positions in Sudan, Myanmar and five other countries.

In a move the company claims is designed to comply with federal regulations, Monster on Thursday will delete most references to those countries from job postings and résumés. A note that Monster sent to affected users says: "Your résumé will be altered, removing all sanctioned countries from your résumé."

What's causing controversy is whether the company is required by law to perform the deletions. According to Kevin Mullins, a representative for Monster, "Monster took the actions to be in full compliance with U.S. regulations" and consulted with the U.S. Treasury Department first.

A Treasury Department representative did not return calls Wednesday. But a senior department official told CNET News.com that no law "that I'm aware of" would require the deletions and Monster's scenario of legal liability was implausible.

Monster pointed to a federal list of sanctioned countries that restricts U.S. companies from engaging in certain business activities.

In the case of Iran, for instance, U.S. corporations can be fined up to $500,000 for importing "goods or services of Iranian origin" except for food, carpets and information. The regulations restrict "services" provided to Iranian companies but exempt "the exportation from the United States to Iran of information and informational materials, whether commercial or otherwise."

Monster's Mullins was unable to immediately identify what section of the rules his company was worried about. The e-mail from Monster to its customers said, "The U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, as well as some states, maintain(s) sanctions which prohibit U.S. companies from conducting certain business activities with organizations located in or residents of the following countries Burma/Myanmar, Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan or Syria."

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) in Washington said Wednesday that Monster misunderstood the law. "ADC contacted the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control and spoke to the Sanctions Section," ADC representative Laila Al-Qatami said. "They advised ADC that Monster has misunderstood the regulations. They are not required to remove or modify any data on persons' résumés."

"This practice is deeply troubling for the many that post their résumés on Monster.com," Al-Qatami said. "Altering or hiding information on résumés is not only misleading but also unjustified. Résumés are supposed to be based on truth and fact. Hiding or deleting information unfairly handicaps persons searching for gainful employment, not to mention going against standards of honesty and truthfulness."

Thursday's deletion will not affect textual descriptions of jobs that customers type in themselves, such as a U.S. photographer describing work that involved a trip to Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). Instead, Monster said it will remove those seven nations from pop-up lists of countries that customers use to construct their listings and delete existing entries that use those fields from its database.

"We're not changing words in résumés," Mullins said. "We're not getting into that. It's discriminatory." Mullins said the change in policy happened because of a routine internal review of Monster's procedures and was not initiated by the Bush administration.

Monster's parent company is TMP Worldwide. Its shares closed Wednesday at $14.32, up $0.69.