Is an Elected Official an Employee? It Depends…

During a recent discussion on the implications of the Affordable Care Act (i.e., Obamacare) on Monroe County Government, a vigorous discussion emerged on the question of whether an elected official of an employer (i.e. Monroe County Government) counted as an employee under the Affordable Care Act, and if so, how to measure the number of hours per week an elected official works.  The distinction matters because of the new Affordable Care Act requirements to provide affordable, minimum essential coverage (these terms have precise definitions) to full-time employees (or at least 95% of full-time employees), or face a penalty.

As it turns out, the answer is complicated, and not entirely clear in the end with respect to the Affordable Care Act. An elected official is an employee, by IRS regulations. However, an elected official is not an employee by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The blog posting Is an Elected Official an Employee an excellent summary of the conflicting legal standards with respect to elected officials (although it is written from the perspective of Illinois law rather than Indiana).  It should also be noted that, contrary to popular opinion, there is no such thing as a “full-time” elected official vs. a “part-time” elected official. Although the salaries of some elected officials (e.g., Auditor, Assessor, Treasurer, Clerk, Recorder) in Monroe County are closer to that which a full-time employee would receive, and others (e.g., County Council) are closer to that which a part-time employee would receive, there is no distinction in law or policy.

So back to the question that prompted this brief discussion — is an elected official an employee from the perspective of the Affordable Care Act? That answer doesn’t seem to exist in the Act, nor in any case law falling from the Act (as there is essentially no case law yet). The conclusion of those in the discussion I participated in was that the safest position was to treat elected officials as full-time employees and offer them health insurance (as Monroe County Government currently does).

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