In American business, can the length of time before eligibility in a 401(k) matching program be negotiated? If so, is this considered to be an acceptable line of negotiation for a senior management position, or is it considered a faux pas?
If it is for a larger company, the vesting period may be a company-wide policy, spelled out in company documentation and handbooks, that they can't change per-employee. I've also found that the bigger and more corporate a company is, the less likely they are to budge on policy even for a top candidate or decision that could benefit the business.
If you're a valuable candidate, I feel like it's easier, from a policy standpoint alone, to give you a larger base, bonus, stock grant, vacation, etc, etc; than to change company-wide 401k policies.
Anything can be negotiated.
Vesting/Matching periods are usually handled at a corporate-wide level though, and this sort of thing might be rather hard to pull off for the average candidate.
Certainly senior management can get away with far more than the average drone.
And certainly smaller companies can be much more flexible.
If the company is motivated enough, any exception can be granted.
401k rules are not entirely to the discretion of the company. Most of the fairness rules are there to make sure those on the top part of the salaries don't get preferential treatment. http://www.cpas-401k.com/401k-compliance-testing-rules.html
You being an exception to the vesting period could draw some attention from the IRS and your company wouldn't want the hassle.
Go ahead and ask. If they can't do it, they may just feel a higher starting salary is easier.