Most people know about the practice of Indentured Servitude in the British North American colonies - that workers would receive "free" passage to the Colonies in exchange for working for the sponsoring employer for a certain period of time, typically seven years.
We also know that generally, indentured servants, as a result of their contract, could not simply "quit" their job, but had to keep going until contract expiry. How did it work from the other side? Were indentured servants immune to layoffs and firing? If an employer really and truly wanted to get rid of an indentured servant before their contract was expired, what happened?
- Was the employer required to keep the servant on until the expiration of their contract?
- Was the servant free to go, with no strings attached?
- Was the servant given a bill for the remaining portion of their passage (e.g. if they were fired after serving 3.5 years of a 7 year indenture, they would owe half their initial fare)?
- Was the employer obligated to sell the worker's contract or remaining contract time to another employer?
Yes, I realize that the culture of work was different back then, with jobs often easier to get, with more employer-provided training and more tolerance of some level misbehavior on the job, so the modern, Dilbert-type fear of looming layoffs and arbitrary firings was not as significant (e.g. the Encyclopedia Virginia (sponsored by the Library of Virginia, a state agency) observes that "indentured servitude became, during most of the seventeenth century, the primary means by which Virginia planters filled their nearly inexhaustible need for labor"), but certainly there were businesses that shut down or downsized back then too, so it would be interesting to know what happened to their indentured servants. Was there a standard practice is such cases?
The Encyclopedia Virginia article mentioned above goes into some detail on how hard a typical indentured servant's job actually was and some potential ways that servants attempted to escape, but that still doesn't really answer the question other than to imply that "job security" was not typically on the top of the priority list for indentured servants or wannabe indentured servants. It does make one wonder, though, what servants could do if they found themselves indentured in a job they really liked or that was very easy for them, and wanted to avoid being sold to another employer, reassigned to a different job, or thrown out into the general job market, and that question is really just my original question in different words.
Although the cite I mentioned is for Virginia, I'm really interested in Colonial America in general if it does not make the question too broad. Considering the dearth of evidence for this sort of thing, I'm guessing that asking just about Virginia would in fact be too localized. Alternately, an answer specific to one jurisdiction is fine, e.g. if you have an answer that specifically refers to New Jersey law or Best Practices, I would consider that a good answer.
Yes, probably many actual indentured servants mumbled "Being an indentured servant sucks - the work is hard, the pay is low, and you can't quit", but were there conditions under which one might say, "Being an indentured servant is great! The work is sort of hard, and the pay really is kind of low, but I enjoy what I do and I'm immune to layoffs!"?