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Seniority: What you need to know

There are pros and cons to implementing a seniority system. Seniority systems create an easy and effective way to give promotions, bonuses, and other job-related benefits. Conversely, many of the benefits given in a seniority system are not based on merit and can be characterized as unfair or in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
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In companies with union contracts, matters of seniority are almost always regulated by the contract. Most employees regard seniority as one of their most important gains from unionization. As used in union contracts, seniority regulates the order in which employees are laid off or recalled from a layoff. In addition, it is at least one element for consideration in promotion from one level to the next within the bargaining unit. The term “seniority” is also loosely interpreted to mean protection from discharge except for cause, with the right to appeal.
Even organizations that are not unionized may have rules or a policy statement that takes seniority into account. Such rules may indicate that seniority will be considered on layoff or recall of employees, subject, however, to the ability of the employee to meet the requirements of the job and the employer's needs.
These policies often provide that, all things being equal, the most senior employee will have preference in promotions. In making any statement about seniority, it is important to indicate that it is only one element to be considered in any of these situations.
Departmental seniority, measured by time within a specific department, is an alternative to applying seniority rules on a company wide basis, but the ...

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