Alabama Deputies Work For The County For Purposes Of Wage And Hour Statute

Two Alabama state statutes potentially cover overtime pay for deputy sheriffs. The first, which applies to “non-elected law enforcement officers in service to the County,” merely requires the employer to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) overtime pay requirements. The second, which applies to “state law enforcement officers in service to the State,” grants employees overtime pay after they work more than 40 hours in a workweek.

A group of Etowah County deputy sheriffs brought a lawsuit claiming they were entitled to the benefit of the latter statute. The deputies argued that there were a string of decisions from the Alabama Supreme Court that (1) they were employed by the Sheriff, not by the County; and (2) in Alabama, sheriffs are state officers.

The Alabama Court of Appeals disagreed with the deputies. While the Court acknowledged that sheriffs were state officers, it held that “in that deputy sheriffs are likewise considered state employees…it does not follow that these state employees are not also in the service of the County. Indeed, in designating the Sheriff as an executive officer, the Alabama Constitution clarifies that there should be a sheriff for each county. Therefore, it is not inconsistent to view the Sheriff and his deputies as state employees who are in the service of the County.”

Etowah County Commission v. Grant, 2007 WL 704902 (Ala.App. 2007).

This article appears in the May 2007 issue