Reference Number: 
CTAS-133

Elected county officials are not covered by the FLSA. Also not covered are political appointees to policymaking positions, legal advisors, and the personal staff of elected officials, as long as these persons are not under civil service protection. The exclusions for an elected official's personal staff and political appointees are very narrowly applied, and great care should be exercised in relying on those exclusions.

To determine whether someone meets one of these exclusions, the definition of “employee” under the FLSA must be examined, together with the administrative interpretations of that definition. The definition of “employee” does not include an individual who:

  1. Holds a public elective office of that state, political subdivision, or agency;
  2. Is selected by the holder of such an office to be a member of the official’s personal staff;
  3. Is appointed by the office holder to serve on a policymaking level;
  4. Is an immediate adviser to such an office holder with respect to the constitutional or legal powers of the office; or
  5. Is an employee of the legislative branch of that state, political subdivision, or agency;

as long as such individuals are not subject to civil service laws of the state, political subdivision, or interstate governmental agency which employs them.[1]

The exclusion for personal staff of an elected official is construed very narrowly by the DOL. As explained by the DOL in a Wage and Hour Opinion Letter dated November 27, 1998 (1998 WL 1147737), the exception applies only to individuals who are in a “highly intimate and sensitive position of responsibility” on the staff of the elected official. It generally includes only persons who are hired by and under the direct supervision of the elected official and who have regular direct contact with the official. See Wage and Hour Opinion Letter, September 12, 1997 (1997 WL 97190).

When a publicly elected official appoints an individual to serve on a policymaking board or commission, such an appointed individual is not covered by the FLSA. The most obvious examples of these policymaking appointees are appointed members of planning and zoning commissions, recreation boards, or other boards and commissions that have specific policymaking or advisory responsibilities.


[1] 29 U.S.C. § 203(e)(2)(C).