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Seniority (from Latin "senex", old man) is the concept of a person or group of people being older or in charge or command of another person or group, or taking precedence over them. Seniority is present in the most common relationships, between parents and children, siblings of different ages, and workers and their managers. See Classic of Filial Piety.
Control is often granted to senior persons due to experience or length of service in a given position. When persons of senior rank have less experience or length of service than their subordinates, "seniority" may apply to either concept. "Seniority" also sometimes refers to the knowledge or skill that one obtains with long experience.
In some military command structures, the length of time someone has held a particular rank is called "seniority in grade" and decides whether that person is senior to another person of the same rank. For instance, a captain who was promoted five years ago can give orders to a captain who was promoted three years ago.
Seniority in United States politics, when used out of context, is informally defined as the number of years one member of a group has been a part of the group. For example, as of May 2013, Ralph Hall, from Texas is the most senior member of the House of Representatives. However, "seniority" can also refer to political power attained by position within the United States Government. For further details, see:
Seniority is viewed sometimes both positively and negatively. Many elected officials are viewed as retaining their position only because they have been there for many years, which can reflect voter stagnancy. On the other hand, long years of incumbency can also be seen as a sign of respect for the person's ability to continue pleasing voters.
In some countries the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps receives special treatment.
In unionised companies, employees with more seniority may enjoy more work privileges. Here are examples:
Seniority also has an influence over bumping rights, which is a re-assignment of jobs, possibly for many people at a time.
Some traditionalist employers, common in smaller, single-operated business, take a "last in, first out" (LIFO) perspective, meaning those that have been there longest, or tenure employees have the right to stay, whereas others take a "first in, first out" (FIFO) or "inverse seniority" viewpoint, which tends to emphasize a new or "fresh start" for the company.
Commercial aviation pilots working for a carrier have their privileges determined by their seniority or generally known as the "pilot seniority list." These privileges can be income level, routes flown, types of aircraft, work schedules and positions. Seniority is most important when deciding which pilots to upgrade to a larger, more complex aircraft type; or for upgrading a First Officer to the rank of a Captain.
Engine drivers with many railways also have a seniority list, but it is focused on work scheduling. Younger engine drivers often serve as back-up personnel and must help out on a very short notice – for example when a colleague calls in sick or has a delay.