I have worked for the same company for a little over 9 years. I have to make it to the 10 year mark to be vested in their pension plan. If I don't make it to year 10, I get absolutely nothing. I have always worked locally, own a house close by, and my family lives with me.
On year number 9, I am told that I will have to travel across the country and remain there for 6 months, which I am really not keen on doing. I simply don't want to be away from my family for that long, and it's not possible for them to come with me due to their own jobs.
When I interviewed for the job, there was never any verbal conversations about the possibility of an extended relocation, as I would have walked away. I can't remember exactly how the wording was phrased on the contract I signed, but if there was anything it was a generic sounding "do whatever it takes to get the job done" and not specifically "expected to travel for extended periods." No other coworker I've worked with has had to do anything similar. The most I have seen is someone being away for a week of travel, and then having several follow up weeks at home before having to return, if they returned at all. I feel like I have been targeted for this task specifically because I am so close to being vested in the pension, and the project director has been very adamant about not letting me work on other projects, even though I have expressed interest in it.
I'm not sure what path I should choose: Put my foot down and refuse to go, possibility losing my job and 9 years of pension progress? Suck it up and just go, wishing my family the best? Try to plead for a more reasonable task? Could this be considered a legal issue, holding my pension hostage or abuse of power?
I think one interesting spin on this whole situation is that this job is not with a private company, but rather a university, so there's a bit more laws and bureaucratic red tape that they'd have to cross in order to fire me. But for all I know refusing to perform this travel may very well make it very easy for them to fire me.
This is in USA.