Free US Law DictionaryBETA
Seniority is the concept of a person or group of people being in charge or in command of another person or group. This control is often granted to the senior person(s) due to experience or length of service in a given position, but it is not uncommon for a senior person(s) to have less experience or length of service than their subordinates.
More generally, "seniority" can be a description of an individual's experience or length of service, and can thus be used to differentiate between individuals of otherwise equivalent status without placing them in a hierarchy of direct authority. For example, in the United States Senate, the senator from each state with the longer tenure is known as the "senior senator" and carries some additional responsibilities to their state's constituents, but they are not formally dominant (or commanding) in any way over the junior senator (unless, for example, the senior senator is chair of a committee on which the junior senator serves).
Additionally seniority gives politicians who have been in the House or the Senate longer more choices on which committee they would like to be in and on decisions that they think are crucial. Members with seniority are also the incumbent and have a much higher chance of being re-elected for a position.
In unionised companies, employees may enjoy more work privileges, such as shifts deemed more favourable, work deemed easier or more pleasurable, or assignment to work, when a work reduction, or a reduction in available work hours results in lay offs, whereby the preference for those who may stay and work is assigned as a function of seniority ("first hired" = last fired, or "last on, first off"). Seniority also has an influence over bumping rights, which is a re-assignment of jobs, possibly for many people at a time.
Subordinates are generally expected to follow the actions, orders, or requests of those senior to them with little or no question.
Seniority is present in most common relationships, be it between parents and children, siblings of different ages, or workers and their managers. It plays a large part in military and paramilitary command structures.
In certain cases, seniority (in the sense of the amount of time with an employer) may be the sole determining factor of pay, as with certain teachers or airline pilots.