Kentucky Labor Laws

Kentucky labor laws provide that the minimum wage in the State of Kentucky is $7.25 an hour. If employees receive tips as part of their compensation, employers can pay the employee a lower minimum wage of $2.13 so long as the employee makes up for the difference in tips. A typical position in which an employee receives tips is a waiter/waitress position in a restaurant. However, subminimum wages cannot be paid to employees with disabilities, trainees, apprentices, learners, student learners, or student workers.

Overtime Pay Requirements

With regard to overtime payment, employers must pay non-exempt employees 1.5 times more than the hourly rate for those working more than 40 hours/week. However, not all employees are eligible for overtime pay, particularly exempt employees, i.e. those receiving a yearly salary. Generally, independent contractors are not considered exempt or non-exempt employees as such individuals are not employees of the company. Instead, the independent contractor fills out a 1099 form (as opposed to a W-2) indicating that he or she is not an employee of the company but rather self-employed and working on a temporary basis for the company. Therefore, overtime rules will not apply for such independent contractors. Employees who are exempt are generally not provided with overtime pay as these employees receive an annual salary as opposed to an hourly rate.

Meal Periods and Breaks

Kentucky labor laws require employers to provide their employees with a thirty minute break for five or more consecutive hours worked. The exception to this rule would be positions in which employees are in a position that provides opportunities to take several breaks throughout the day. Generally, breaks under 20 minutes must be paid. Note that employees operating in the restaurant industry can waive their right to a meal break to ensure they receive as much in tips as they can. However, in order to waive their right to a meal break, a form much be filled out in which the employee agrees and signs indicating his or her full understanding of the waiver.

Employers should also provide their employees with working hours, so that employees are aware of their schedules and workweek. In addition, travel time may count toward work hours depending on the company. The company should be clear and concise in the employee handbook so that everyone is aware of the company’s policy. There are other common policies, such as “makeup” policies, that allow for an employee to take off a few hours any given day, and make up those hours either that day or another day. Therefore, it an employee has a doctor’s appoint, he or she may show up to work an hour or so late. Generally, the employer will allow the employee to make up the time that day by staying an hour later that evening.

Paid Time Off

The State of Kentucky has several rules regarding different types of leave, including vacation, sick time, holidays, jury duty, and bereavement.

Vacation days. Kentucky labor laws do not require employers to give employees vacation benefits, paid or unpaid. If such vacation days are provided to employees, this information must be stated in the company’s policy, including on the company’s internal employee website, employee handbook, and employees’ contracts. However, if an employee leaves the company, it is up to the employer to determine whether or not to pay the employee for unused vacation days.

Sick days. While Kentucky employers can choose whether to provide sick leave benefits to their employees, they may be required to provide unpaid sick leave if the conditions fall under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This federal law provides that employers with at least 50 employees provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off to employees who qualify. Such qualifications can include a serious medical condition of the employee or an immediate family member, a birth/adoption of a child, and other few qualifying circumstances. Such leave cannot affect the employee’s position with the company.

Jury duty. Kentucky labor laws require employers to allow employees time off for jury duty; however, paid time off is not required and employees may be forced to use vacation or sick days for such time off.

Harassment and Discrimination. According to Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers cannot discriminate based on race, sex, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, or disability.  This law also covers harassment, inclusive of sexual, disability, ethnicity, and any other type of harassment against one or more employees. Furthermore, if an employee makes a formal complaint against the company or becomes a whistleblower, retaliation on the part of the employer against the employee is illegal under the law.

Workers Compensation

Kentucky workplace injuries are also covered by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). This federal law requires that employers provide employees with a safe working environment, including training on using safety equipment and gear, in an effort to prevent workplace injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. Employees who suspect a violation of the law can reach out to OSHA requesting that an OSHA inspector conduct an inspection. Such a complaint made by an employee cannot be met with retaliation on behalf of the employer. Most employers are also required to carry worker’s compensation insurance, which will protect employees in the event that they suffer a workplace injury or illness. Such insurance will pay an injured employee with a percentage of his or her usual job earnings while also paying for necessary medical treatment and other rehabilitation treatment.

Employee Termination

In order for an employer to avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit, it employees must be properly terminated. Wrongful discharge that is against public policy means that the employer illegally terminated the employee. It is crucial that all decisions to terminate an employee be made for legitimate reasons, whether it be for a failure to perform, specific misconduct, or downsizing of the company due to selling off of a particular business unit or the sale of the company itself. An employer cannot retaliate against an employee for being a “whistleblower” or making a formal complaint against the company for any number of reasons, i.e. a complaint made to OSHA for failing to provide a safe workplace or a labor law complaint due to discrimination or harassment.

As previously noted, the company may terminate you due to financial hardship or downsizing of the company; therefore, a number of employees may be laid off. The state and federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires the employer to provide a 60-day notice to any employees being laid off for any reason. Most companies making lay-offs will also provide those employees with additional resources, such as resume reviews, letters of recommendation, and other assistance to ensure that their employees can make a smooth transition into a new position as quickly as possible. Further, some companies will even provide outsourcing placement for those employees being laid off so that all employees will have another job lined up immediately after separating from the company.

COBRA Benefits

COBRA, also referred to as the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, is a covered health insurance plan in which terminated employees can utilize after separating from his or her employer. Most employers are required to provide COBRA insurance for a period of up to 18 months after the employee leaves the company.

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