What is Bumping?

Meaning & Definition


“Bumping” is a human resources and labor-related term that refers to a displacement or reassignment process within an organization, often in the context of downsizing or layoffs. Bumping allows an employee whose position is being eliminated to “bump” or displace another employee in a different, usually lower-level, position. This can occur when an organization has a policy that provides job security and employment rights based on seniority.

How bumping typically works?

  • Position Elimination

When an organization needs to reduce its workforce or eliminate positions due to budget cuts, restructuring, or other reasons, it identifies positions that are no longer required.

  • Seniority Consideration

Employees whose positions are targeted for elimination are often given the opportunity to “bump” into another position for which they are qualified. The seniority of the affected employee determines the bumping order.

  • Qualification Match

The affected employee may have the right to displace another employee in a lower-level position for which they are qualified. The displaced employee, in turn, can potentially bump into another lower-level position, and so on.

  • Cascade Effect

Bumping can create a cascade effect, where employees with more seniority displace those with less seniority, potentially leading to a chain reaction of displacement through various levels of the organization.

  • Final Placement

The process continues until the displaced employees can no longer bump into any other positions, at which point they may be eligible for severance or other compensation based on company policies and employment contracts.

Bumping is a practice that is more commonly associated with unionized workplaces or organizations that have seniority-based rights and job protection policies in place. It can be a way to help employees affected by job cuts maintain their employment within the organization, albeit often in different roles. Bumping is typically governed by collective bargaining agreements, labor contracts, or organizational policies, and the specific rules and procedures can vary widely depending on the organization and its labor relations framework.

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