The Kentucky
labor law guide

The Kentucky employment laws every business owner should know

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Wages and breaks

Kentucky Minimum wage

The current minimum wage in Kentucky is $7.25.

If the federal minimum wage increases, Kentucky’s minimum wage will increase to the same amount.

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Tipped Minimum wage

The current minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.13.

Employers may not require employees to participate in a tip pooling or sharing agreement.

Employees may voluntarily agree to participate in a tip pooling agreement amongst themselves.

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Kentucky Overtime

Employers covered under the FLSA are required to pay employees an overtime pay rate of one and a half times their regular rate for all hours worked in a workweek in excess of 40, unless the employee is otherwise exempt.

Employers are also required to pay employees the same overtime rate for all hours worked on the 7th day when an employee works all 7 days in a workweek.

The federal overtime rule stipulates that the minimum salary requirement for administrative, professional, and executive exemptions is $684 per week, or $35,568 per year. Workers making at least this salary level may be eligible for overtime based on their job duties.

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Kentucky Meal periods

Employers must provide a reasonable meal break after the third hour and before the fifth hour of work unless a mutual agreement has been made.

The meal periods do not have to be paid.

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10 min per 4 hrs
Kentucky Rest breaks

Employers must provide employees with at least 10 minutes of a rest period after every 4 hours of work.

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Final paychecks in Kentucky

Employers must pay employees who separate from employment for any reason all final wages by the next regularly scheduled payday or within 14 days of the separation.

Kentucky child labor laws

Minors less than 16 years of age:
Child labor laws require that minors under the age of 16 may not have any hours worked during school hours (except on a farm for a parent or guardian). They may work up to three hours on school days, and up to eight hours on non-school days. They may work up to 18 hours a week during the school year, and 40 hours a week when school is not in session.

They may not work earlier than 7 a.m. or later than 7 p.m.

Minors 16 or 17 years old:
Minors 16 or 17 years old may work no more than six hours on school days, and eight hours on non-school days. They may may work a maximum of 30 hours per week during the school year. There are no time restrictions on the number of hours they may work during the summer.

Leave requirements

Kentucky Sick days

Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid sick leave but must comply with their own established policies if they choose to implement one, according to the Kentucky Department of Labor. 

Kentucky Family and medical leave

Employers may be required to provide employees unpaid leave in accordance with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

Kentucky vacation leave

Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid vacation leave but must comply with their own established policies  in an employee handbook if they choose to implement one.

Employers may establish a contract denying payment for accrued vacation leave upon separation of employment.

The contract may also disqualify employees from payment for vacation leave upon separation from employment if they do not follow certain requirements such as giving two weeks notice.

The amount of vacation leave accrued over time may be capped in the policy.

Employers may implement a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy requiring employees to use their accrued leave by a certain date.

Kentucky Jury duty leave

Employers are not required to pay an employee for time taken to respond to a jury summons, but they are not allowed to punish the employee in any way.

Kentucky holiday leave

Employers are not required to provide paid or unpaid time off for holidays.

Kentucky Voting leave

Employers are required to provide employees with at least 4 hours of time off to vote and may not penalize them for doing so unless the employee does not vote for reasons that were within their control.

Kentucky bereavement leave

Employers are not required to provide bereavement leave.

Kentucky Emergency Response Leave

Employers may not discharge an employee because they take leave to respond to an emergency or to recover from an injury (for up to 12 months) that occurred while responding to an emergency.

To be protected, the employee must either be a volunteer firefighter, a rescue-squad member, an emergency medical technician, a peace officer, or a member of an emergency management agency.

Kentucky Adoption leave

Employers must provide their employees with up to six weeks of leave to receive custody of an adoptive child who is less than seven years old.

Kentucky Witness Leave

Employers cannot take any adverse action against an employee for appearing as a witness.

Employers do not have to pay employees for time spent on witness leave, and employees can be required to provide a copy of the court or administrative certificate as proof of the need for leave.

Kentucky Military Leave

Employers must allow employees who are members of the National Guard to take leave for active duty or training. The leave may be unpaid.

Hiring and firing

Kentucky Discrimination laws

Federal law makes it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of: Race, Color, Age, Sex, Sexual orientation, Gender, Gender identity, Religion, National origin, Pregnancy, Genetic information, including family medical history, Physical or mental disability, Child or spousal support withholding, Military or veteran status, Citizenship and/or immigration status.

In addition to the federal discrimination law, Kentucky law prohibits discrimination based on HIV/AIDS status, off-duty tobacco use, and occupational pneumoconiosis without respiratory impairment.

Click here to read our blog on what acceptable and unacceptable questions to ask during an interview.

Kentucky Termination laws

Kentucky is an employment-at-will state, which means that without a written employee contract, employees can be terminated for any reason at any time, provided that the reason is not discriminatory and that the employer is not retaliating against the employee for a rightful action.

Kentucky Record-Keeping Laws

Regarding employment and payroll data, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and others, you must:

For at least 3 years: keep payroll records, certificates, agreements, notices, collective bargaining agreements, employment contracts, and sales and purchase records. Also keep completed copies of each employee’s I-9 for three years after they are hired. If the employee works longer than three years, hold on to the form for at least one year after the employee leaves. 

For at least 2 years: Keep basic employment and earning records like timecards, wage-rate tables, shipping and billing records, and records of additions to or deductions from wages. Also keep the records that show why you may pay different wages to employees of different sexes, such as wage rates, job evaluations, seniority and merit systems, and collective bargaining agreements.

For at least 1 year: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says employers should keep all employment records for at least one year from the employee’s date of termination. 

Other record-keeping laws that may apply to you: 

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, you need to keep records of job-related injuries and illnesses for five years. But some records, like those covering toxic substance exposure, have to be kept for 30 years.

You must keep files of benefit plans and seniority and merit systems while they are in effect and for at least a year after they end. You must also retain summary descriptions and annual reports of benefits plans for six years.

If your company is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, you must also retain relevant records of leaves, notices, policies, and more for three years. 

Additional laws that may apply to you.

Kentucky background check laws

Employers who run background checks should ensure they’re following the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The Kentucky Labor Cabinet requires that employers conduct background checks on the following types of employees or applicants: School personnel who are new certified hires, student teachers, or coaches; Public college or university personnel; Personal services agency personnel; Personnel of long-term care facilities owned, managed, or operated by the Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental, and Intellectual Disabilities; Childcare center personnel (including the Director) who have direct contact with minors or who have supervisory or disciplinary power over minors.

Kentucky Whistleblower Protection Laws

Employers may not discharge or discriminate against an employee or applicant for any of the following reasons: Opposing, filing a complaint, or participating in an investigation or proceeding regarding an unfair employment practice or occupational safety and health hazard under the state Equal Opportunities Act; Filing a complaint regarding a violation of wage-and-hour laws; Requesting an inspection or exercising other rights regarding workplace safety.

Kentucky COBRA Laws

COBRA is a federal law that allows many employees to continue their health insurance benefits after their employment ends. Because federal COBRA only applies to employers that have 20 or more employees, many states have adopted their own versions of the law, which are known as “mini-COBRAs.” Kentucky’s mini-COBRA allows employees to continue their coverage for up to 18 months. We recommend that employers inform their insurer of an employee’s triggering event as soon as it occurs.

Kentucky Employee Monitoring Laws

Employers may not use a device to listen to, amplify, record, or transmit oral or wire communications unless at least one party consents.

Kentucky Pregnancy Accommodation laws

The Kentucky Pregnant Workers Act requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions, including the need to express breast milk.

An employee may not be required to take a leave of absence if another reasonable accommodation can be provided. The employer must engage in a timely, good faith, and interactive process with an employee to determine effective reasonable accommodations. Accommodations that have been or would be offered to other employees will be presumed to be reasonable in the case of pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions.

kentucky Pay Practices

Employers must pay their employees at least semimonthly. This requirement does not apply to exempt employees. Employers in mining must pay their employees by the 15th and the 30th of the month. The payday must be within 18 days of the end of the pay period. Employers in mining must pay their employees within 15 days of the end of the pay period. Each pay period, employers that have 10 or more employees must provide employees with a written or electronic statement of their itemized deductions. If the statement is electronic, the employer must allow the employee to print it at work.

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This summary is not qualified legal advice. Laws are always subject to change, and they can vary from municipality to municipality. It’s up to you to make sure you’re compliant with all laws and statutes in your area. If you need more compliance help, we recommend consulting with a qualified lawyer, checking with your local government agencies, or signing up for Homebase to get help from our certified HR Pros.