Can my employer require me to turn in a resignation letter when I am forced to take a mandatory break from employment?

UPDATED: May 28, 2011

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Can my employer require me to turn in a resignation letter when I am forced to take a mandatory break from employment?

I work for a company that has a contract with the US Government. The company deducts taxes from my pay, provides health insurance and a retirement plans. I work in Afghanistan and the company has a policy that only allows 2 years in-country at a time. At the end of that time you are required to take a 60-day break. I have been with the company for 3 years and a recognized employee. I am at my 2 year mark in-country and now have to take the “break”. I wish to continue employment after the break and the company will have me back. Why then is the company requiring me to do a resignation letter?

Asked on May 28, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

They are probably requiring the resignation letter because doing so means (1) they don't have to provide your benefits during the time you are not employed by them--e.g. after you resign, but before you are rehired (if indeed you are rehired); (2) it gives them more flexibilty to decide whether to bring you back or not (they'd have to rehire you); (3) if you are not rehired, you can't get unemployment; (4) depending how certain of your benefits (like any stock options, pension, etc.) work, it may cause you to lose vesting time. In short, it offers many potential advantages too them, none to you.

They can't force you to sign a resignation letter. However, if you are an employee at will (no employment contract), they probably can simply fire you at more-or-less any time, for pretty much any reason (other than one based on a protected characteristic, such as race, religion, sex, disability, or age over 40).

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