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Employment Law/Fair labor treatment?

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Question
I had been working for this company for about 10 years, then suddenly I had trouble renovating my employment authorization, so I was unable to work for a little more than a year. Before my employment authorization expired, I asked the HR secretary if I could just be absent during the time it took to get it renewed, and explained it could take several months. She said yes, and that I could come back with my renewed card like it never even happened. Now more than a year later, I got my authorization back and went to the company, talked to the same secretary and she said that I had to go sign up with an employment agency, and if I ever got back in, then I would have to start from the ground, with the minimum wage, and with no seniority. I'd like to know if it's fair what they are doing, and I was naive for thinking everything would work out right? or am I really being treated unfairly?

Answer
Rolando - Please note that I know nothing about work visas, and if your immigration status makes a legal difference, I am unaware of what that difference might be.

You are not being treated differently than anyone else would be treated.  There is a big difference between a couple of months leave, and a leave for over a year.  Many employers will hold a job open for a short time; most will not hold one open for over a year, especially when it is not for a medical reason or because of military service.  In addition, if you are not a union member, your seniority does not survive such a break in employment.  You may have been naive, but I answer these questions all the time and you are not alone in your naive belief that employees have rights regarding their jobs.  There are few rights in employment, certainly fewer than in many other countries.  It may be unfair, but it is neither unusual nor illegal.

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Margaret M. deMarteleire

Expertise

I can answer most questions about employment law, federal or state. I am an attorney, not an HR professional, so questions about HR careers, coursework, prospects, etc. are not within my scope.

Experience

Attorney for 20 years, currently working exclusively with employment law - FLSA, FMLA, federal contracts, pay, etc.

Education/Credentials
Temple University School of Liberal Arts, BA, Rhetoric & Communication, 1982 Temple University School of Law, JD, 1990 Certificate in HR, Cornell University ILR School, 2006

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