Dutch hotel website Booking.com has ended the contracts of 11 Iranian employees before their work even began, citing sanctions, the NRC reported on Friday.
The paper said that the signed contracts of the Iranians—many who had already quit their jobs and given up their homes and cars—were cancelled at the last minute due to ‘economic reasons’, namely internal warnings of ‘sanction risks.’
While based in Amsterdam, Booking.com is listed on the American stock exchange, making it bound by both European and American rules. Sanctions laws in the US prohibit US companies from doing business with Iran. In order to recruit Iranian talent, Booking took on dozens of Iranians in Amsterdam for years through a Dutch company.
Although those already working for the company can remain, there won’t be any more new Iranian recruits. Many of those whose contracts were cancelled had already been helped by the company to get work visas and were just about to depart for the Netherlands. Those affected received no explanation or compensation, the paper said.
Zohreh Ghasemi, who had been hired by Booking.com as a UX researcher, says she received a last-minute message in her inbox cancelling her employment. ‘Unfortunately, we have to inform you that, due to business requirements of Booking BV, your services for the job you have applied for are no longer needed,’ the email said. ‘We apologise for the inconvenience. We wish you every success in the future.’
She reached out to the company for answers, including the woman who was to be her supervisor. ‘She read the message, but did not respond,’ Ghasemi is quoted as saying. ‘No one responded anymore.’
‘Unfortunately, we had to withdraw a small number of offers due to some complexities we discovered in our international recruiting process,’ a Booking.com spokesperson told the paper. ‘This is an unfortunate result of complex and conflicting laws that we – and many other organizations – face as a global company. It involves hiring individuals who currently reside in a few specific countries.’
Those countries are said to include Iran, Syria, Cuba, North Korea and Russia-annexed parts of Ukraine. Booking.com is on a post-Covid hiring spree as its business moves full steam ahead. The company says it is working on how to help the 11 Iranians who have been told their appointments are cancelled.
Another of the 11, Maede Rajabi, posted about her rescinded contract on LinkedIn under the heading ‘A short story about Racism in Booking.com.’ She says her contract was cancelled the day before her flight to Amsterdam and less than a week before she was due to start working.
‘With this message, I want to re-ask Booking the question I asked in my unanswered emails,’ she wrote. ‘How is Booking going to compensate for the financial and emotional damage it has inflicted on me and people like me?’
The post has since received more than 27,000 likes and sparked hundreds of messages of support. The day after the post, the NRC reported, those affected received a call from Booking’s human resources department asking for time to solve the problem—but said it couldn’t make any promises.
Booking.com insists the issue has nothing to do with discrimination but is ‘the result of complicated and contradictory laws.’
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