Picking layoff candidates: How equal is equal?

The workload had declined considerably. Maintenance Supervisor Al Kagen decided the department was overstaffed and posted Bill Fallon's name on a layoff list along with two others. Fallon was quick to protest.
By Raymond Dreyfack March 1, 1999

The workload had declined considerably. Maintenance Supervisor Al Kagen decided the department was overstaffed and posted Bill Fallon’s name on a layoff list along with two others. Fallon was quick to protest.

“How come I’m laid off and Mel Keene is still on the payroll? My seniority exceeds his by 2 yr.”

“The reason is simple,” Kagen replied. “Keene has more experience than you working on the grinders and milling machines. We’ve been having a lot of trouble with them lately.”

Fallon refused to settle for this. “I can handle any job Keene can handle. According to the contract, all things being equal, seniority is supposed to be the deciding factor in layoff decisions.”

“Right. All things being equal. That doesn’t apply in this case.”

“I don’t see why not. We both hold the same work classification, Mechanic Grade II.”

“True. But that doesn’t make you equal.”

“We’ll see about that,” Fallon threatened.

Question: Does Kagen have a right to retain the junior mechanic whose ability he regards as superior?

Vincenti’s decision: Plant Engineer Nick Vincenti listened to Kagen’s rundown of the controversy. “Fallon has a valid argument,” he said. “Even if, in your judgment, Keene has an edge over Fallon, it is at best a marginal edge. Generally speaking, where two employees have the same classification, they are deemed to have equal ability for layoff purposes, especially where their duties are pretty much the same. My suggestion is that you explain this to Mel Keene and retain Fallon.”

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