Labor and Employment Law Overview: Kentucky

Labor and Employment Law Overview requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

Summary

  • The Kentucky Civil Rights Act is broader than Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act in covering employers with eight or more employees. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • A Kentucky employer is prohibited from requiring an applicant to take an HIV-related test as a condition of employment. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • State law places some requirements on employers regarding meal and rest breaks, and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • Kentucky has a few laws that relate to employee pay and benefits, including health care continuation coverage, pay frequency, wage deductions and pay statements. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Kentucky requires employers to provide employees with certain types of leave, including adoption leave, court attendance and witness duty leave, military leave and voting time leave. See Attendance and Leave.
  • There are few state-specific safety provisions that are unique to Kentucky. See Health and Safety.
  • Kentucky employers must be aware of final pay requirements and the job reference immunity law. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in Kentucky

Kentucky generally is considered an employer-friendly state.

Select Kentucky employment requirements are summarized below to help an employer understand the range of employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship in the state. An employer must comply with both federal and state law.

An employer must also comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.

EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations

The Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KCRA), which covers employers with eight or more employees (15 or more employees for disability claims), bars discrimination on the basis of the following:

  • Race;
  • Color;
  • National origin;
  • Age;
  • Religion;
  • Sex; or
  • Disability.

The KCRA also prohibits sexual harassment. A separate law bars discrimination against individuals with HIV and AIDS.

Kentucky does not have a state law that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, some Kentucky cities and counties do have such laws or ordinances.

Unlike Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the KCRA does not have a cap on damages. However, the KCRA does not allow for punitive damages. The KCRA also provides for the following:

  • An individual manager or other employee may be personally liable for retaliation under the KCRA; and
  • An employee has up to five years to file suit, and the employee does not have to file a charge with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before filing a lawsuit alleging violations of the KCRA.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee generally will apply.

Additional information on discrimination and harassment protections in Kentucky can be found in the Kentucky Employee Handbook Table of Contents, EEO - Discrimination: Kentucky, EEO - Harassment: Kentucky, Kentucky Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Kentucky? Federal requirements can be found in EEO - Discrimination: Federal and EEO - Harassment: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Under Kentucky's Equal Opportunities Act, an employer is prohibited from requiring an individual to take a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-related test as a condition of hiring, promotion or continued employment unless the absence of HIV infection is a bona fide occupational qualification for the job in question. In addition, an employer that claims a bona fide occupational qualification exists for HIV-related testing bears the burden of proof and also must show there is no means of reasonable accommodation short of requiring the test.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee generally will apply.

Additional information on recruiting and hiring practices in Kentucky can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Kentucky and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Kentucky? Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key Kentucky requirements impacting wages and hours are:

Meal and Rest Breaks

Kentucky law requires employers to provide a reasonable lunch break (at least 30 minutes) between three and five hours into an employee's shift. Employees must also receive a 10-minute rest break every four hours. The lunch break does not have to be paid, but the rest break does.

Child Labor

State law prohibits minors who are 14 or 15 years of age from working in certain hazardous occupations, including:

  • Manufacturing, mining or processing operations;
  • The operation of motor vehicles;
  • Public messenger services; and
  • Construction work except for office work.

Kentucky generally permits minors who are 16 or 17 years old to work in most occupations except the following:

  • Jobs in any establishment where alcoholic beverages are manufactured, bottled or sold, unless sold in packages incidental to the main business;
  • Occupations in a pool or billiard room; and
  • Occupations listed in federal regulations as especially hazardous to the employment of minors.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee generally will apply.

Additional information on wage and hour law in Kentucky can be found in the Kentucky Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Hours Worked: Kentucky, Child Labor: Kentucky and Kentucky Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters. Federal requirements can be found in Hours Worked: Federal and Child Labor: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key Kentucky requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Health Care Continuation

Kentucky's mini-COBRA law requires fully insured Kentucky group health care plans issued to employers with fewer than 20 employees to allow continuation of coverage for up to 18 months for the covered member and dependents.

Pay Frequency

All Kentucky employers doing business in the state must pay employees at least semimonthly. Employees must be paid all wages earned no later than 18 days after the end of each pay period.

Wage Deductions

Employers are permitted to make deductions from employees' pay if the deductions are:

  • Authorized by local, state or federal law;
  • Expressly authorized in writing by employees to cover insurance premiums, hospital and medical dues, or other deductions not amounting to a rebate or deduction from the standard wage arrived at by collective bargaining or pursuant to a wage agreement or statute;
  • For union dues, if authorized by joint wage agreements or collective bargaining contracts negotiated between employers and employees or their representatives;
  • For retirement plans; or
  • For uniforms, if the employee's wages do not fall below minimum wage.

Pay Statements

An employer with 10 or more employees must provide each employee with a pay statement at the time wages are paid that specifically states the amount and general purpose of each deduction.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee generally will apply.

Additional information on pay and benefits practices in Kentucky can be found in Payment of Wages: Kentucky and Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Kentucky. Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal.

Attendance and Leave

Key Kentucky requirements impacting attendance and leave are:

Court Attendance and Witness Duty Leave

Employees are entitled to take unpaid leave to attend court proceedings and may not be penalized for doing so. Employees must, however, provide their employers with advance notice of the leave.

Jury Duty Leave

Kentucky employers are required to allow employees to take an unpaid leave of absence for jury duty service and may not discharge, or threaten to discharge, an employee for taking jury duty leave.

Adoption Leave

Kentucky employers must provide employees with up to six weeks of job-protected leave for the purpose of adopting a child under the age of seven. There is no requirement that this leave be paid.

Voting Time Leave

Kentucky employers must provide employees with up to four hours of leave to vote or to apply for an absentee ballot. Employers may specify the hour(s) of the leave period.

Employees selected to be election officers must be granted an entire day to attend training or serve as election officers.

Military Leave

Under Kentucky law, employers must provide unpaid leave to employees in the National Guard or active militia who are performing active military duty or training. After the leave period, those employees are also entitled to be reinstated to their former position, with the same seniority, pay and other rights to which they would have been entitled if they had not taken military leave. In addition, employers are prohibited from discrimination against employees who are military personnel or who take military leave.

Emergency Responder Leave

Under Kentucky's emergency responder leave law, employers may not terminate volunteer firefighters, rescue squad members, emergency medical technicians, peace officers, or members of an emergency management agency because they are absent or tardy responding to emergencies.

Employers may:

  • Request proof of the reason for the employee's absence from, or tardiness to, work; and
  • If an employee is injured while providing emergency services, the employer may request statements explaining how the injury occurred.

However, employers may not:

  • Charge the time against an employee's regular wages; or
  • Terminate an employee because he or she was injured while performing emergency services and, consequently, absent from work for period of 12 months or less.

State employees certified as disaster services volunteers of the American Red Cross must be allowed to take up to 30 workdays of leave in any 12-month period to participate in American Red Cross disaster relief services. Employees may take leave without loss of pay, seniority, vacation, sick, compensatory time, or earned overtime accumulation. Employees taking leave must receive their regular rate of pay.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee generally will apply.

Additional information on attendance and leave practices in Kentucky can be found in the Kentucky Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Other Leaves: Kentucky, Jury Duty: Kentucky, USERRA: Kentucky and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Kentucky? Federal requirements can be found in Other Leaves: Federal, Jury Duty: Federal and USERRA: Federal.

Health and Safety

Key Kentucky requirements impacting health and safety are:

Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Program

The Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Program generally follows federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) regulations, but also has a few state-specific provisions, including those addressing the handling of toxic and hazardous substances.

Kentucky employers also must orally report certain work-related incidents in addition to those required by the federal OSHA.

Smokers' Rights

A Kentucky employer may enforce policies about smoking in the workplace, including banning smoking at work, but they may not fire an employee or refuse to hire someone simply because the individual smokes.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee generally will apply.

Additional information on health and safety laws in Kentucky can be found in the Kentucky Employee Handbook Table of Contents, HR and Workplace Safety: Kentucky, Employee Health: Kentucky, Kentucky Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Kentucky? Federal requirements can be found in HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance): Federal and Employee Health: Federal.

Organizational Exit

Key Kentucky requirements impacting organizational exit are:

Final Paycheck

Employees who either are terminated or resign from employment must be paid outstanding wages by the later of:

  • 14 days; or
  • The next regularly schedule payday.

Kentucky law does not require employers to include accrued and unused vacation days in an employee's final paycheck. Therefore, payment of vacation pay upon termination will depend upon the employer's policies and prior employment practices.

References

Kentucky has a job reference immunity statute. Under the statute, employers that provide references related to former or current employees' job performance or professional conduct or provide an evaluation of the current or former employee, are presumed to have done so in good faith and will be immune from civil liability.

However, that presumption of good faith is a rebuttable one. Employers will not be immune from civil liability if they knowingly provide false or misleading information, provide information without taking reasonable measures to verify it or provide information in a manner constituting unlawful discriminatory practices.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee generally will apply.

Additional information on organizational exit practices in Kentucky can be found in Payment of Wages: Kentucky and Involuntary Terminations: Kentucky. Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Involuntary Terminations: Federal.