I am in month 5 of an extremely unfulfilling post doc position in France. My sole responsibility is debugging 10k+ lines of spaghetti C++ code. I am a mechanical engineer and although I did my PhD with a focus on numerical simulations, debugging isn't what I envisioned myself doing.

My current supervisor has been "controlling my life" by controlling when I leave from work by strategically placing meetings at such times. He has also suggested on numerous times, quite explicitly that I must not leave work until he does; and he is a workaholic - works 12 hours a day. This has continued for the last 4 months and this has severely affected my health. I am now depressed, balding and have lost 15 pounds of body mass.

Today I had a conversation with the director of my research lab and he hinted that since things aren't working out, "I may be given enough time to find employment" and leave.

I am confused, hurt and extremely displeased to say the least.

Losing my job would be very problematic for me, as I am an Indian citizen and it would affect my ongoing H1B processing for a faculty position in the US starting next fall.

My current contract doesn't state what the "rules of being let go" are. All it says is that I am required to work 35 hours a week. I have consulted a lawyer "friend" and he tells me that most contracts are at will anyway and for foreign nationals, once your contract AND work status are revoked, you may not be able to fight the system.

Considering that I will be given a few weeks to a month or so perhaps, how do I behave towards my supervisor. Should I show up for work or just say screw it?

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    You need to consult an immigration attorney as soon as possible. Any other advice to this is superfluous to you figuring out how to handle the current situation.
    – aeismail
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 18:29
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    @drN Sheesh, that sounds nasty. I assume you have asked your "home" university for help? If not, I suggest doing so immediately. It does sound like your best bet is to try to keep the people you are working with happy for the duration if you can. I suppose you had no idea it was going to work out like this? Sounds like something went badly wrong. I was in a somewhat similar situation once that went on for years. I'd have thought stringing these people along would be possible for 7 months. Try to act all enthusiastic about your job if you can. Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 19:10
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    Which is why you should get the local employment law attorney now! I doubt it's legal for your employer to fire you and have you deported while your lawsuit unlawful working conditions is pending. You might not be able to work, but I suspect you can find a way to stay in France while you work out your dispute. It's also possible that your advisor/university will back off and not fire you if your attorney points out to them that what they are doing is illegal. GO GET SOME GOOD LEGAL ADVICE!
    – Bill Barth
    Commented Sep 11, 2014 at 20:05
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    At the risk of being superfluous, Bill's advice sounds good. Since (if I understand your situation correctly) all you basically need is to stay put for 7 months, and you have a job waiting for you after that time, legal action (or even the threat of legal action) might be enough to swing that. It is quite likely the adviser/university will back off under the circumstances. After all, they have little or nothing to lose by letting you stay on in the area (or even stay employed) for the next 7 months. I would certainly try to stay employed if you can, even if you don't enjoy the job. Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 13:25
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    You need to talk to a lawyer in France and maybe to the US school about whether a January start is possible, there's no point talking to random academics on the Internet about this further until you understand your options better. Commented Sep 12, 2014 at 13:50

1 Answer 1


There are two problems here. An academic dilemma and a legal issue. The latter is specific to country's immigration, workplace rules, your residency status, etc., therefore I will politely keep the focus to the first one. There are also good comments to your post, so keep them in mind as well. Needless to say, the legal problem could be more intimate to your situation but you will find actual support from a legal authority as you yourself have stated. Now, to the academic dilemma at hand: first of all, I suggest talking with your supervisor and make your position clear in an honest sober way. Your problem is a practical one and need not to be emotional. Here, I would suggest and stress on keeping the best of relations with your supervisor (even if you decide to leave or they decide to let you go), especially if this is your first ever post-doc position. This is important for two reasons: first, you want to leave on good terms even if it didn't work out for you and so you don't need to give an impression of personal grudge. Second, there might be opportunities in future where you will have to work/collaborate with the said supervisor or the university. You also don't want to ruin the possibility of good references for your own future work from this university - hope things will work out for you, and my two cents help. Good luck.

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