Does your H-1B employer:

  • Rip you off (e.g. make you pay H-1B filing fees, underpay your wages, etc.)?
  • Subject you to abuse (e.g. threaten you with job termination or deportation)?
  • Want you to do things that you think are unethical?

If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, then you may well have a legal claim against your employer. You may call a lawyer and check into that.

But more importantly, you may want to question why you put up with it, continuing to get slapped by the hand that feeds you.  There are other, more humane, hands out there.

If you are fired, or if you continue to work under poor conditions to the point you can’t take it anymore, you will eventually be forced to find a new employer.

So why not start the job search now, when it’s already clear to you that your H-1B employer is acting against your interests?

I get phone calls from employees all the time who describe legitimate, painful hardships inflicted upon them by their employers.  So then I ask, “Are you looking for a new job?”

Disappointingly, often the answer is “No,” or “Not yet, but I plan on it.”

As these answers show: many employees who are being treated unfairly do not react proactively.  When obvious trouble arises, they do not react by planning for the worst and taking action (searching the job market, talking to an attorney about H-1B transfer requirements, sending out resumes, etc.).

Rather, they spend a great deal of time: (1) internalizing the employer’s irrational criticisms (e.g. “Maybe I really am a lousy employee for complaining about being underpaid, and the employer is right I am lucky they sponsor my H-1B”); (2) futilely trying to correct the employer’s uncorrectable conduct (e.g. “I left five messages with the owner to get me copies of my LCA and H-1B papers.. I’m going to call him again, and tell him how absurd this is!”); and/or (3) avoiding a job search, because they believe it’s impossible to transfer to better employment.

Such self-defeating behavior is sympathetic and understandable.  A conscientious person wants to examine the repetitive criticisms and actions against them, to examine if the criticisms have merit, and if the person can improve things.  This is the natural reaction of a conscientious employee.  But it’s the wrong reaction.

If you encounter unfair conduct and see the writing is on the wall, you should not stick around to endlessly analyze or debate your situation.  Nor should you become paralyzed by self-doubts, such as “There is no way I can get out of this situation, because [fill in the self-defeating blank].”

You HAVE to move on to somewhere else.

The moment you recognize your H-1B employer is acting against your interests, get going with Plan B immediately.  Educate yourself about what can be done to better your situation, and then do it.

This blog is authored by Employee and H-1B Rights Attorney Michael Brown of the law firm of Peterson, Berk & Cross, and Immigration Attorney Vonda K. Vandaveer of the law firm V.K. Vandaveer, P.L.L.C.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is NOT legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship between you and the attorneys or law firms above. Legal advice often varies among situations. If you want legal advice for your specific circumstances, you must consult with an attorney.