Employment Law Questions? Ask an Employment Lawyer.
How a private employer handles who gets or who does not get a job or opportunity (unless discrimination is involved) is normally left up to the employer to determine. Where a person works as an employee-at-will, meaning that they have no written employment contract that specifies how long they will be working nor a union contract, the employer can hire and fire them at anytime, for any reason, or even for no reason at all (unless, of course, illegal discrimination is a factor). Further, unless an employer has a specific termination policy about who is to be first let go or that requires specific procedures before anyone can be let go, employers are free to let any member of their staff go or to allow others to move to different positions (again, however, if illegal discrimination, on the basis of race, gender, religion, age, disability, etc. is what drives the decision of who gets a better result or a worse result, then that is illegal). Also, unless an employer has an agreement to rehire persons after a layoff, employers do not need to rehire persons they layoff before they can refill positions. However, under state and federal laws, if employers are laying off from 50 to 100 workers or about 1/3 of their force, they need to provide at least 60 days notice (see here).