ASML may follow US export rules when hiring

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch computer chip equipment maker ASML may refuse job applicants on the basis of their nationality when required to do so by U.S. export rules, a Dutch human rights body has found.

The decision by the Netherlands’ Institute for Human Rights affirmed that ASML may reject job applicants from Iran, Syria, Cuba and North Korea who might have access to sensitive U.S. technology, even though it is not obliged to do so by Dutch law.

ASML, based in Veldhoven, Netherlands, has significant operations in the U.S. and makes equipment used in semiconductor manufacturing.

“Regulations issued by the U.S. authorities sometimes have an effect outside the territory of the U.S.,” the institute, which oversees discrimination complaints in the Netherlands, said in a summary of its June 16 judgment.

U.S. Export Administration Regulations (EAR) “although not originating from the Dutch legislator, are indeed binding for ASML,” the institute said.

A Rotterdam-based anti-discrimination foundation had filed a complaint over ASML’s hiring practices, arguing that Dutch law does not permit discrimination on the basis of nationality.

The company had argued that violating U.S. regulations would lead it to risk American sanctions that “could bring operations to a standstill,” the decision said.

ASML said in a reaction on Monday that it was “pleased with the positive outcome.”

In the decision, the institute described a flow chart ASML had submitted as evidence showing it routinely checks whether employees perform work that could be considered relevant for EAR rules.

If so, then the employee must have nationality or permanent residency in a country that does not fall into one of the U.S. Commerce Department’s D:1, E:1 or E:2 country groups.

Those categories include Iran, Syria, North Korea and Cuba, but also about 20 other countries considered a national security threat to the U.S., including China and Russia.

(Reporting by Toby Sterling in Amsterdam; Editing by Matthew Lewis)