Ransome v. State
Connecticut General Statutes §5-142(a) does not authorize the workers' compensation commissioner to order the reinstatement of an employee who, after having partially recovered from a workplace injury, was separated from state service under C.G.S. §5-244 because of the absence of suitable alternative state employment. The plaintiff, Kenneth Ransome, in the course of his employment as a judicial marshal, suffered severe injuries to both knees during an assault by a prisoner. Originally totally disabled, after corrective surgery, he was reclassified as temporarily partially disabled because he had a sedentary work capacity. He was separated from state service in good standing under C.G.S. §5-244, following an administrative finding that there were no employment opportunities then with the defendant judicial branch for anyone with his disability. After further surgery, Ransome was released to full duty without restrictions. The defendant refused to reinstate him to his previous position. The commissioner and, on appeal, the workers' compensation review board, held that once an employee is no longer totally disabled, he is no longer entitled to the special benefits provided by C.G.S. §5-142(a) and is not, therefore, entitled to automatic reinstatement to his former position. The Appellate Court agreed and affirmed the board's judgment. The plaintiff's claims on appeal were rejected that C.G.S. §5-142(a) unconditionally required his reinstatement once he regained the physical ability to undertake such responsibilities and that, because his injuries initially caused him to be totally disabled, the statute provided him job security by entitling him to be placed on a special payroll guaranteeing the payment of his full salary for five years. C.G.S. §5-142(a) entitled the plaintiff to receive disability compensation as long as he was totally disabled. He unsuccessfully contended that once that entitlement to benefits vested, the statute gave him job security by automatically placing him on the statutory special payroll for disabled employees. The focus of C.G.S. §5-142(a) is the protection of state employees who, as a result of their state service, are totally incapacitated for a significant period. Nothing in its text manifests any intention comprehensively to address all aspects of the conflicting interests of injured employees and state employers when the employees cease being totally incapacitated. The commissioner properly concluded that she lacked authority to reinstate the plaintiff. C.G.S. §31-290a, regarding retaliatory firing, was inapplicable.