Kentucky Labor Laws: Everything You Need to Know

Kentucky labor laws provide that employees within the state must be paid at least $7.25/hour, which is equivalent to the federal minimum wage. 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

Under the Federal Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), qualified employers must pay their employees 1.5 times their normal hourly wage for any overtime hours worked above the 40 hour/week schedule. However, some employees are ineligible to receive such pay, including those employees who are exempt and earning 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

A lot of states follow the same guidelines regarding meal breaks. Particularly, Kentucky indicates that employers must provide employees with a thirty-minute break if employees work 5 or more consecutive hours. The only exception would be if the position allows the employee to take several small breaks throughout the day. The 30 minute meal periods are not paid; however, those shorter breaks, i.e. under 20 minutes, are to be paid. Employees operating in certain industries, including the restaurant industry, can waive the right to a lunch period. However, in order to waive such right, the employee must sign a document indicating as such.

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.

Most states have their own state laws in place regarding paid time off. More specifically, Kentucky has its own laws regarding such paid time off, which is inclusive of vacation days, sick time, jury duty, bereavement, and holiday pay.

Vacation days. Kentucky labor laws don’t require employers to provide its employees with any type of vacation benefits. However, keep in mind that most employers, not just in the State of Kentucky, do in fact provide some sort of vacation policy for its employees.

Sick days. While Kentucky employers need not provide employees with specific benefits in terms of sick days, they may be required to abide by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This law provides that employers with 50 or more employees must allow employees with 12 weeks of unpaid time off if the employee falls within the qualified criteria for FMLA leave. This can include a serious medical condition of the employee or an immediate family member; birth/adoption of a child; and other qualifying circumstances. Keep in mind that the employer must hold the position for the employee during this time period, and cannot terminate the employment contract for this reason.

Jury duty. Under Kentucky law, employers are required to allow employees with time off for jury duty. While the employer isn’t required to pay the employee for such days off, most employers do in fact indicate that jury duty can be used as a vacation day.

Harassment and Discrimination. According to Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on race, sex, religion, national origin, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, or disability.  This law also covers harassment.

Workers Compensation

Workplace injuries in Kentucky are covered under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), which is a federal law requiring that employers ascertain that all employees work in a safe environment. This law is particularly helpful for those employees operating heavy equipment and other machinery, chemicals, and other potentially hazardous materials. Such working environments require several on-the-job training seminars, workshops, and pamphlets to ensure that employees utilize safety equipment and protective gear. If an employee is unhappy or believes that his or her employer is violating OSHA laws, the employee can make a formal complaint with OSHA requesting that an on-site inspection take place. Thereafter, an OSHA representative will visit the site to inspect all areas and ensure that all employees are receiving the appropriate training and utilizing the appropriate gear. An employer cannot retaliate the employee for making such a complaint; but if it does, the employee will likely have other legal recourse.

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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