Is lost seniority reclaimable?

When 16-yr veteran maintenance employee Floyd Loftis was diagnosed with a heart condition 3-yr ago, he was transferred on his doctor's recommendation from his heavy material handling job to a non-union clerical post.
By Raymond Dreyfack May 1, 1999

When 16-yr veteran maintenance employee Floyd Loftis was diagnosed with a heart condition 3-yr ago, he was transferred on his doctor’s recommendation from his heavy material handling job to a non-union clerical post. This switch resulted in a salary decrease and loss of seniority.

Six months ago, Loftis had open heart surgery and made such a splendid recovery that in his doctor’s judgment he was now fit to reclaim his old job. The company physician agreed and Loftis was reassigned as material handler with the understanding that he would be treated as a new employee. Loftis grumbled about that provision, but accepted it.

Things were looking up for several months until one day Loftis and three other workers were laid off as part of a workforce reduction. At this point, he complained to Bill Maglie, his supervisor, that he had been ripped off. When Maglie didn’t see it that way, Loftis threatened to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), reasoning that the layoff wouldn’t have applied to him had his prior service as a union member been credited.

The union steward who interceded in the worker’s behalf also pointed out that the statute of limitations imposed by ADA had not yet been exceeded. Maglie said he would look into it.

Question: If Loftis follows through with his threat, do you think he will win?

Expert’s opinion: When Maglie filled in his boss on the situation, Plant Engineer Ralph Reardon telephoned the company’s attorney, Dave Grooven.

“The time for Loftis’ claim to have been validated was when his seniority was discontinued at reinstatement,” Grooven said. “He knew what was happening and didn’t object to the terms. I can’t guarantee that every judge would agree, but I see no discrimination under the law. Union seniority doesn’t vest in this case.”