Updated June 26, 2020:

KY Labor Laws

KY labor laws are legislation that protect employees while still giving a number of rights to Kentucky employers. The majority of these labor laws protect employees in situations regarding minimum wage, overtime pay, and discrimination in the workplace.

Kentucky Minimum Wage

Employers in Kentucky are required to pay employees a minimum wage of at least $7.25 an hour. This minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage. The federal minimum wage is set by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which oversees several hour and wage-based laws.

Employees who earn tips are subject to a lower minimum wage, as long as the hourly rate and tips hit the standard minimum wage. Tipped workers may make as little as $2.13 per hour.

Kentucky Overtime Laws

Employers in Kentucky must pay a rate of at least one and a half times an employee's normal pay rate when the employee works anything more than 40 hours in a week. In addition, any employee who works seven days in a workweek is eligible for legally-mandated time and a half overtime pay on the seventh day.

Overtime pay is not legally required for employees working holidays, Saturdays or Sundays, or other regular rest days unless these days put the employee's worked hours at more than 40 for the week.

Employees over the age of 18 do not have a legal limit on the number of hours they work in a week.

Not all employees are eligible for overtime pay. Exempt employees, for example, salaried management, do not receive overtime pay when working more than 40 hours in a week.

Kentucky Break and Meal Laws

For every four hours worked in a day, employees in Kentucky are legally allowed a rest break of a minimum of 10 minutes. This is a paid break, and employees are not expected to perform job-related duties during their rest break.

Any break that lasts from five to 20 minutes is considered a normal part of the workday and is required to be paid at the employee's standard pay.

Meal periods are also mandated by Kentucky labor laws. Unless other arrangements are mutually agreed upon by the employer and employee, a reasonable meal break is required at some point between the third and fifth hours in a shift. As long as the employee is fully relieved of all duties, the meal break does not need to be paid time.

In some situations, employees may be required to work through their lunch period. When this happens, the break must be paid.

If employees decide they do not want to take a meal break, the employer can waive this. It is always in the employer's best interest to keep records when this happens, in case there are questions about meal breaks in the future.

During meal breaks, employers do not have to allow their employees to leave the work site. Bona fide meal breaks have a duration of at least 30 minutes. In some cases, depending on the specific circumstances, shorter breaks may qualify as a meal break.

If an employer does not follow the Kentucky break laws and instead fails to allow employees to take their mandated rest periods, employees can contact the Kentucky's division responsible for wages, hours, and mediation.

It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who has contacted the Department of Labor about incorrect break practices.

Kentucky Severance Pay Laws

There are no laws in Kentucky that require an employer to offer severance pay. However, if severance pay is offered, the company is required to comply with its own established severance pay policy or the employee's employment contract.

Kentucky Bathroom Break Laws

According to federal laws and regulations put out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employees must get reasonable and adequate bathroom breaks. However, the state of Kentucky does not have specific laws regarding bathroom breaks.

Some employees may have specific medical conditions that require them to take bathroom breaks more frequently than their peers. When this happens, employers are required to allow the breaks as a reasonable accommodation.

If an employee feels that their employer does not comply with the regulation on reasonable bathroom breaks, the employee should feel confident in contacting OSHA. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against an employee for reporting unhealthy or unsafe working conditions.

Kentucky Breast-Feeding Breaks Laws

Women who are breast-feeding require time to express their milk throughout the day, or they can suffer from a reduced supply and extreme discomfort. As a result, new labor laws insist that employers give breast-feeding employees reasonable break time to express their milk.

Kentucky Labor Cabinet Investigations

Violations to Kentucky labor laws are investigated by the Kentucky Labor Cabinet. One of the most common investigations is a result of overtime pay violations. When an employer does not pay appropriate overtime, or does not calculate the overtime correctly, this violates labor laws.

A standard workweek for a full-time employee is fixed in a 168-hour recurring period. This is a total of seven consecutive periods of 24 hours. Keep in mind that an employee's work week doesn't necessarily coincide with a calendar week. It may start at any day in the week, at any hour in the day.

It is illegal to average the hours an employee works over two or more weeks.

Overtime pay an employee accrues in a week should be paid on the normal payday for that week.

In some cases, an employee may work in two or more functions for the same company, where these functions have differing pay rates. When this happens, the overtime rate for the week in question is the weighted average of these rates.

An employer may choose to pay exempt employees overtime. If this happens, it does not jeopardize the exempt status of the employee.

Break violations are also in the Kentucky Labor Cabinet's realm of investigation. When an employer doesn't provide the mandated breaks to employees, they are in violation of labor laws.

The Kentucky Labor Cabinet investigates violations that relate to unpaid hours. If all hours worked are not paid at the employee's normal rate, this is a violation. In the case when an employee quits or is removed from the company, all worked hours must be paid in full within 14 days or at the next normal pay day, whichever is first.

In addition, violations for unpaid hours include not paying employees their last paycheck after they leave the company, as well as when employers do not pay for accrued vacation time when employees are terminated.

Keep in mind that Kentucky law does not require employers to offer paid or unpaid vacation benefits. However, when an employer chooses to offer these benefits, they are required to abide by their established policy.

Employers who hire laborers, mechanics, and workmen who work on public works construction are subject to paying these employees prevailing wage. This is the term for the combination of the fringe rate and base rate. Employers not paying prevailing wage rates are in violation of the law.

If an employer classifies an employee as an independent contractor incorrectly, this is also a violation. Keep in mind that any time an employer has control over the employment relationship conditions, such as when and where work is performed, this is not an independent contractor relationship.

When a company is found to be in violation of Kentucky's labor laws, the government may impose stiff fines.

Kentucky Harassment and Discrimination Laws

According to Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal for an employer to make decisions about a job based on:

  • Sex (including pregnancy)
  • Race
  • National origin
  • Color
  • Religion

Additional protections and federal laws protect employees from discrimination based on their genetic information, age (as long as the employee is 40 years old or older), and disability.

While federal law protects employees from discrimination if a company has 15 or more employees, Kentucky law applies to companies with eight or more employees. These laws are enforced by the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights.

Workplace harassment is against the law. Any statement or action that is unwelcome and based on a protected trait that makes the workplace offensive or hostile is considered harassment. The most common and familiar type of harassment is sexual harassment. However, other types of harassment include statements and actions based on ethnicity, age, or disability.

Employers are not allowed to retaliate against employees who report harassment. No negative job actions can be taken against these employees, whether the complaint is made inside the company, to the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, to the EEOC, or even in a lawsuit.

Workplace Safety and Injury Laws in Kentucky

Thanks to the protections offered by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), employees can expect to work in a safe, healthy environment. Employers are required to provide a working environment that includes proper safety training and equipment for their industries.

If employees feel that their work environment is not safe or healthy, they can ask for an Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspection. Employers are banned from retaliating against employees who notify OSHA of possibly dangerous working conditions.

Employers in Kentucky are usually required by law to have worker's compensation insurance. This insurance helps pay for medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation, and a percentage of employees' normal wage if they are injured or become sick on the job.

Kentucky Time Off Laws

Kentucky does not regulate time off benefits, such as:

  • Sick days
  • Vacation time
  • Paid time off
  • Holidays

Employers that have 50 or more employees are required to give eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off for medical reasons under the Federal Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Employees using FMLA are allowed to continue receiving group health insurance benefits. In addition, their jobs are protected and must be reinstated when they return from leave.

There are special provisions in FMLA for employees who need time off work to take care of a family member who was injured seriously while on military duty. In this case, FMLA protects the employee for up to 26 weeks in a year.

Employers must also comply with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. This act protects employees taking leave for military service. Employees using this leave must be allowed their job back when their leave is over.

Unpaid leave is required by Kentucky law to be extended to employees who need time off for jury duty. In addition, employers are required to give up to four hours of unpaid time off work for employees to cast their ballots.

Leaving a Job in Kentucky

Kentucky is an at-will state, meaning that the majority of employees are considered at-will. Employees may quit their jobs for any reason at any time. In addition, an employer may fire an employee for any reason that is not illegal, at any time. At no time can an employer fire at-will employee for retaliatory or discriminatory reasons.

Insurance and Unemployment Benefits in Kentucky

Employees who are no longer working through no fault of their own may be eligible for unemployment pay and benefits. Eligible employees receive a percentage of their previous pay, up to a maximum of $415 per week, for up to a total of 26 weeks. Those who are eligible must spend time searching for a new job while on unemployment benefits.

Group health benefits that were previously available through an employer can continue after leaving a job through COBRA, also known as the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. It's important to remember that employees participating in the health insurance benefits through COBRA are required to pay the entire premium, including their portion and the employer's portion. Depending on the situation, COBRA benefits can be used for 18 or 36 months.

Talk to a Lawyer About Kentucky Labor Laws

Employees in Kentucky are protected by numerous state and federal laws. When employees feel that their rights have been violated by an employer, they should immediately contact a Kentucky employment lawyer.

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