Can a worker's seniority be taken away?

When Pipefitter Grade I Pete Harshorn requested a 3-wk leave of absence to tour the United States with his family, it was denied on the grounds that he couldn't be spared.

08/01/1998


When Pipefitter Grade I Pete Harshorn requested a 3-wk leave of absence to tour the United States with his family, it was denied on the grounds that he couldn't be spared. Moreover, Maintenance Foreman Bob Greenley explained, acceding could touch off a rash of similar requests, which would open up a can of worms.

Permission or not, Harshorn took the time off. He reasoned he was very employable. If he was fired, he'd have no trouble finding another job.

When he returned from his unauthorized leave, Greenley told him, "You're a valuable employee, and I'd hate to lose you. On the other hand, management can't allow people to take unauthorized privileges. If you decide to return to work you'll be fired for the infraction, then rehired."

"Meaning what?"

"Meaning you'll lose your seniority which will date from the time of rehire."

"No way!" Harshorn replied.

"Suit yourself."

Harshorn made several calls. He was correct about his employability, but hadn't realized the wage offers would be so much less than what he was earning. Swallowing his pride, he called Greenley and accepted his terms.

"Smart decision," his boss replied.

That wasn't the end of it. A month after returning to work, Harshorn challenged management's right to deprive him of his seniority.

Question&BD: Do you think Harshorn's challenge will stand up?

Plant engineer's verdict: When Greenley brought his boss up to date on Harshorn's threat, Plant Engineer Al Pinyero supported the punitive action imposed on the pipefitter.

"He might conceivably have a case," he said, "if he could demonstrate that his unauthorized leave was for good cause -- illness-connected, for example, or to take care of a family emergency. But I don't think a self-authorized vacation qualifies in this regard. In my view, the break in seniority is warranted. In fact, valued employee or not, I think we might have been better advised to terminate him."





Top Plant
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
Product of the Year
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
System Integrator of the Year
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
June 2018
2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
May 2018
Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
April 2018
2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
June 2018
Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
April 2018
ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
February 2018
Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
Spring 2018
Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
April 2018
Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
February 2018
Setting internal automation standards

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Machine Safety
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
Research Analyst Blog
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Electrical Safety Update
This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
Maintenance & Safety
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
Safety First: Arc Flash 101
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me