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

  • Kentucky law prohibits an employer from discriminating or retaliating against employees in a variety of protected classes. Employers must also provide equal pay. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • In Kentucky, there are requirements relating to the minimum wage, overtime, meal and rest breaks and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • Kentucky has laws that relate to employee pay and benefits, including health care continuation coverage, payment of wages, pay frequency, wage deductions and pay statements. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Kentucky law, employees are entitled to certain leaves or time off, including adoption leave, court attendance leave, election official leave, military leave and emergency responder leave. See Time Off and Leaves of Absence.
  • Kentucky prohibits texting while driving and permits weapons in company parking lots. See Health and Safety.
  • When employment ends, Kentucky employers must comply with applicable final pay and job reference requirements. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in Kentucky

Kentucky has laws that provide greater protections to employees than federal law, including health care continuation coverage obligations for smaller employers and leave for volunteer emergency responders, but generally follows federal law with respect to topics such as the minimum wage and occupational safety.

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

Key Kentucky requirements impacting EEO, diversity and employee relations are:

Fair Employment Practices

The Kentucky Civil Rights Act (KCRA) prohibits discrimination based on protected characteristics, including:

  • Race;
  • Color;
  • National origin;
  • Age;
  • Religion;
  • Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth and related medical conditions); and
  • Disability.

The KCRA also prohibits harassment and retaliation.

The KCRA generally applies to employers with eight or more employees, but for disability discrimination purposes, the law applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

The Equal Opportunities Act, which applies to employers with eight or more employees, bars discrimination on the basis of physical disability, HIV, AIDS or AIDS-related complex.

Equal Pay

Under Kentucky's equal pay law, an employer with two or more employees may not discriminate between employees in the same establishment based on sex by paying any employee in any occupation wages that are less than any employee of the opposite sex for comparable work on jobs with comparable requirements relating to skill, effort and responsibility. Wage differentials are permissible if paid according to an established seniority or merit increase system.

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 EEO, diversity and employee relations practices in Kentucky can be found in the Kentucky Employee Handbook Table of Contents, EEO - Discrimination: Kentucky, EEO - Harassment: Kentucky, EEO - Retaliation: Kentucky, Disabilities (ADA): 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, EEO - Harassment: Federal, EEO - Retaliation: Federal and Disabilities (ADA): Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key Kentucky requirements impacting wages and hours are:

Minimum Wage

Kentucky's minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. If the federal minimum wage is increased, Kentucky's minimum wage will increase by the same amount.

Overtime

Kentucky's overtime law is consistent with federal law. Kentucky also requires that employees who work all seven days in a workweek be paid overtime for all hours worked on the seventh day if, by the end of that day, the employee has worked more than 40 hours in that workweek. Exceptions apply.

Meal and Rest Breaks

Employees are entitled to a 10-minute paid rest break for every four hours worked and a reasonable meal break near the middle of their shift. Employees may not be required to take their meal break before three hours or after five hours into their shift.

Child Labor

Child labor laws in Kentucky restrict the occupations in which minors may be employed and the number of hours and times during which they may work.

Minors under 14 years of age generally may not be employed unless the employment is through a school-sponsored program.

Minors who are 14 or 15 years of age are prohibited from working in a variety of hazardous occupations, such as manufacturing and warehousing. They are permitted to work in certain retail, food service and gasoline service station jobs.

Minors who are 16 or 17 years old may 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.

Minors under the age of 18 may not work five continuous hours without the benefits of a 30-minute lunch break.

Minors who are 16 or 17 years old may work:

  • No more than 30 hours in any workweek when school is in session (up to 40 under certain circumstances);
  • No more than six hours in any school day;
  • No more than eight hours in any nonschool day;
  • Between 6 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. on days preceding a school day; and
  • Between 6 a.m. and 1:00 a.m. on days preceding a nonschool day when school is in session.

Exceptions apply if a parent or legal guardian gives written permission.

Minors under the age of 16 may not work:

  • During regular school hours, unless they have graduated from high school or are enrolled in a work-training program;
  • More than 40 hours per week and eight hours per day when school is not in session;
  • More than 18 hours per week and three hours per day when school is in session;
  • Before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. (9 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day).

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 practices in Kentucky can be found in the Kentucky Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Minimum Wage: Kentucky, Overtime: Kentucky, Hours Worked: Kentucky, Child Labor: Kentucky, Kentucky Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Kentucky? Federal requirements can be found in Minimum Wage: Federal, Overtime: Federal, Hours Worked: Federal and Child Labor: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key Kentucky requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Health Care Continuation

Kentucky's health care continuation 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.

Payment of Wages

Kentucky employers may pay wages in cash or with checks that are convertible into cash on demand at a bank at full face value. An employer may pay wages by direct deposit or payroll cards if certain conditions are met.

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 generally may make deductions from employees' pay that are:

  • Authorized by local, state or federal law;
  • Expressly authorized in writing by the employee to cover insurance premiums, hospital and medical dues, or certain other deductions;
  • For union dues;
  • For retirement plans; or
  • For uniforms.

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, Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Kentucky and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Kentucky? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal.

Time Off and Leaves of Absence

Kentucky has several laws relating to required time off and leaves of absence for employees, which cover all employers. These laws include:

  • Adoption leave;
  • Court attendance leave;
  • Jury duty leave;
  • Voting leave;
  • Election official leave;
  • Military leave; and
  • Emergency responder leave.

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 time off and leave of absence 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:

Weapons in the Workplace

Kentucky allows employees to keep legally concealed firearms and ammunition in their personal vehicle even on an employer's property. Employees also have the right to remove the gun from their car to defend themselves, someone else or the employee's property.

Safe Driving Practices

Kentucky prohibits texting while driving.

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 practices in Kentucky can be found in the Kentucky Employee Handbook Table of Contents, HR and Workplace Safety: Kentucky, Workplace Security: 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 Workplace Security: Federal.

Organizational Exit

Key Kentucky requirements impacting organizational exit are:

Final Pay

Employees who either are terminated or resign from employment must be paid in full by the later of the next normal pay period or 14 days after the termination or resignation.

All wages owed to a deceased employee must be paid to the surviving spouse or, if there is none, to surviving children or to their guardian if they are minors. Before payment can be made, a determination must be made that there is no will providing for distribution of the wages otherwise, and that the value of the estate does not exceed $15,000.

References

Kentucky employers that provide information about the job performance, professional conduct or evaluation of a former or current employee to a prospective employer are immune from civil liability unless the employee can prove that:

  • The employer disclosed information knowing it was false, with reckless disregard for the truth or falseness of the information, and with the intent to mislead the prospective employer; or
  • The disclosure by the employer was unlawful discrimination under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.

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, Performance Appraisals: Kentucky and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Kentucky?. Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Performance Appraisals: Federal.