Let me pose a scenario first. Suppose you work for a mid-size employer in the state and decide to run for a local or state office. Perhaps against the public’s better judgment, you even win a full-time elected position — for two terms. But then – after eight years in office — you have been voted out of office.
Can you get your job back with your prior employer? Well, under state law, the answer is likely yes. And you can get credit for your time in office.
Sounds a little absurd right? After all, new parents who leave the workforce for years to raise their kids don’t get this protection, nor do people who suffer from long-term illnesses who have to leave their jobs for some years.
But, it’s all there in black and white. Indeed, in Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-51l, any person employed by a private employer of 25 or more people who leaves such employment to accept a full-time elective municipal or state office must be granted a personal leave of absence for two consecutive terms.
Upon reapplication to the employer, the employer must then reinstate that employee to his or her original position or a similar position with equivalent pay and accumulated seniority, retirement, fringe benefits and other service credits.
There is one exception to the general rule. If the employer’s circumstances have changed as to make it impossible or unreasonable to do so, the employer is not required to do so. But how often is it “impossible” for an employer to rehire an employee to at least a similar position?
(Before you start berating our current legislators for preserving their own interests, remember that they are part-time legislators so this statute does not apply to most of them.)
Certainly, we want to encourage public service, but it’s not like we have a shortage of people running for full-time elected office. In other words, is there really a problem that needs a fix like this statute? Moreover, why should employers bear the burden when a person seeks elected office for their own personal growth? And why should an employer have to rehire someone who may no longer have the skills necessary for the position or whose actions while in office lead the company to believe that it does not want to be associated with that person?
Ultimately, this statute is a trap and bad deal for the unwary private employer and boon to elected officials. The solution: Eliminate the law and let elected officials seek jobs like the rest of the workforce.