Table of contents
What’s new in 2023
Wage and Hour Laws
If the federal government passes legislation to raise the FLSA rate, Kentucky state law will automatically raise the state minimum wage to match it.
Exclusions from Kentucky’s minimum wage
Kentucky law requires employers to pay at least minimum wage to all employees. However, the law excludes the following from its definition of “employee”:
- Agriculture workers.
- Anyone employed in an executive, administrative, supervisory, or professional capacity (similar to the “FLSA exempt employee” definition).
- Outside salespeople or outside collectors.
- Employees of the US government.
- Domestic service employees.
- Apprentices, disabled workers, and other employees under an approved state government program.
- Retail employees at a business with less than $95,000 annual gross volume of sales for the last 5 years.
- Anyone employed by a member of their immediate family.
- Babysitters and caretakers whose duties don’t include housekeeping.
- Anyone engaged in newspaper delivery to consumers.
- Employees of an organized nonprofit camp, religious, or educational center that operates fewer than 210 days in a calendar year.
- Individuals providing 24-hour care to neglected and abused children through approved childcare facilities.
- Individuals providing 24-hour care to disabled adults in their own homes through an approved adult foster care organization.
- Direct sellers.
Under Kentucky law, individuals meeting any of these criteria aren’t in employment positions requiring payment of minimum wage.
Tipped minimum wage
Employers in Kentucky can contribute tipped earnings to the minimum wage requirement if their employees customarily receive more than $30 per month in tips.
Each tipped employee must be paid a direct wage from the employer of at least $2.13 per hour. Employers may then count the employee’s tipped earnings toward their hourly wage.
For example, an employee who’s paid $2.13 per hour and earns $10 per hour in tips would have an effective hourly wage of $12.13. This is above the minimum wage of $7.25, so no further pay is required from the employer.
If an employee’s tipped earnings don’t make up the difference between the direct and minimum wage, then the employer must increase the direct wage so that the employee earns at least minimum wage.
The overtime pay law in Kentucky aligns with FLSA requirements. Most employees are entitled to compensation at 1.5 times their regular pay rate for any time worked over 40 hours in a week.
Exemptions from overtime laws
Kentucky excludes the following types of workers from overtime pay eligibility:
- Retail store employees whose work deals with selling, purchasing, and distributing merchandise.
- Restaurant, hotel, and motel employees.
- Employees classified as FLSA-exempt.
- Employees providing 24-hour residential care to neglected and abused children through an approved facility.
- Employees providing in-home companionship services for a sick person or older adult.
Meal and rest breaks
In Kentucky, employees are entitled to a reasonable break for lunch as close to the middle of their shift as possible. The lunch break doesn’t have to be paid. Employers can’t require employees to take their lunch break fewer than 3 or more than 5 hours after their shift begins.
Employers in Kentucky must also provide a paid rest break of at least 10 minutes for every 4 hours an employee works. This break has to be in addition to the regularly scheduled lunch break.
Employers qualifying as “carriers” under the Federal Railway Labor Act are exempt from meal and rest break requirements.
Kentucky employers are required to maintain payroll and personnel records that include each employee’s
- Social Security Number.
- Home address.
- Date of birth (if under 18 years of age).
- Time and day of the week when their work week begins.
- Hours worked.
- Regular rate of pay.
- Total wages for all hours worked during each work week.
- Total overtime compensation for each work week.
- All additions and deductions from employee pay.
- Wages paid each pay period and date of payment.
Employers must maintain these records for at least 1 year from the date of entry.
They must also report details about newly hired employees to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The report must include:
- Employee’s name.
- Employee’s address.
- Employee’s Social Security Number.
- Employer’s name.
- Employer’s address.
- Employer’s federal or state identification number (if one has been issued).
- The date the employee first performed work for the employer.
Kentucky employers must report these same details when an employee returns to work after being furloughed, laid off, or granted an unpaid leave of absence. This report is due within 20 days of the employee being hired or returned to work.
💡 Pro Tip:
Take advantage of an employee scheduling app, like Connecteam, to remain compliant with state law and easily track employee hours, time off, breaks, and overtime.
Employee Compensation and Benefits
Final paycheck laws
When an employee is dismissed or voluntarily leaves employment, Kentucky employers must issue a final paycheck either by the next regular pay date or 14 days following the employee’s departure—whichever is sooner.
Reporting time pay
Employers in Kentucky are required to pay employees only for hours actually worked.
There’s no obligation to pay employees who report to work if no work is performed. There’s also no requirement to pay employees a minimum number of hours if they’re sent home from their shift early.
Employee scheduling laws
Kentucky has no laws requiring predictive scheduling or otherwise limiting how employers can schedule their employees.
Payday frequency and method
Kentucky law requires employers to pay workers at least twice per month. They must pay employees all earned wages no later than 18 days from the date the work was performed.
If an employee is absent on the pay date, their pay becomes due within 6 days of requesting payment from their employer.
Kentucky employers can pay employees using any of these methods:
- Direct deposit.
- Payroll card.
Payroll card accounts may not charge an activation fee and must allow employees to withdraw up to their full balance without fees at least once per month.
Pay stub requirements
All employers in Kentucky with 10 or more employees must provide a pay stub at the time of pay. The pay stub must outline the employee’s earnings and all deductions made during the pay period.
Pay stubs can be delivered on paper or electronically. Any employer providing electronic pay stubs must provide access to a computer and printer.
Wage deductions and garnishments
Kentucky law specifically allows deductions from employee pay for the following:
- Deductions authorized by local, state, or federal law.
- Deductions authorized by the employee in writing.
- Union dues when allowed by a collective bargaining agreement and consented to in writing by the employee.
The same law states that employers may not deduct any of the following from employee wages:
- Cash shortages from a register or till used by 2 or more employees.
- Losses due to employees accepting a customer check that isn’t honored for payment.
- Losses due to damage or stolen property that can’t be attributed to willful or intentional disregard by the employee for the employer’s interest.
Wage deductions may also violate FLSA standards if they cause the employee’s pay to drop below minimum wage.
Kentucky’s Workers’ Compensation Act applies to all employers in the state with 1 or more employees.
Some employees are exempt from coverage, including:
- Domestic servants in private homes if fewer than 2 employees are employed.
- Any person employed 20 or fewer consecutive work days for repair, remodeling, or similar work on the employer’s private home.
- An individual performing services for a religious or charitable entity in exchange for aid or sustenance only.
- Certain mining industry employees covered by the Black Lung Benefits of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969.
- Agriculture employees.
- Employees participating in a voluntary carpool program on their way to or from work.
- Members of a religious sect that’s opposed to such benefits and has an approved program to care for its members.
- Ministers working 10 hours or fewer per week.
- Cemetery caretakers working 10 hours or fewer per week.
- Employees providing support services through an approved community services program.
- Individuals who elect not to be covered.
Employers fund Kentucky’s workers’ compensation program, which is intended to pay medical expenses and lost wages for employees who are injured on the job. Kentucky employers cannot deduct any portion of workers’ compensation insurance costs from employee wages.
Employers must obtain either an insurance policy to cover workers’ compensation liability through a private carrier or approval to self-insure from the Security Branch of the Kentucky Department of Workers’ Claims.
Employers are required to take certain actions concerning workplace injuries. These include:
- Keeping a record of all employee injuries.
- Reporting each injury to their workers’ compensation insurance provider within 3 working days of the incident.
Employees also have a reporting responsibility when a workplace accident or injury occurs. They must notify their employer as soon as they reasonably can after an incident. Failing to report accidents or injuries could result in a loss of benefits.
The Kentucky Department of Workers’ Claims administers all workers’ compensation claims and may assign disputed claims for a formal claims review process. An injured employee can file a claim online or by mailing a paper form.
Kentucky law prohibits harassing or discriminating against employees for filing or pursuing workers’ compensation claims.
Most employers with employees working in Kentucky must pay unemployment insurance taxes. These are paid only by employers and are intended to temporarily benefit workers who lose work through no fault of their own.
Employers are liable for unemployment insurance taxes if the business has any of the following:
- At least $1,500 in gross wages for a single quarter.
- One or more workers engaged in work in any part of 20 different weeks in the year.
- An acquired business that’s already liable for unemployment insurance.
- Liability for unemployment insurance under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act.
Covered employers must establish an unemployment insurance tax account with the Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance.
Once they’ve set up a tax account, employers must file quarterly tax reports and pay unemployment taxes. Taxes are paid up to a maximum annual cap. The cap increases each year and is $11,100 in 2023.
The Kentucky Work Share Program was adopted in 2023 to help businesses avoid layoffs. The program allows employers to temporarily use unemployment benefits to supplement employee pay when the employee’s hours have been reduced by between 10 and 40 percent. Employers must apply to the program before accessing benefits.
In order to qualify for unemployment benefits, an unemployed worker must:
- Be unemployed or working less than full-time.
- Have earned enough during a qualifying period to establish a claim.
- Have lost work through no fault of their own.
- Be able and available to work.
- Be looking for work.
Eligible workers are paid benefits weekly. The minimum weekly rate is $39, and the maximum weekly rate is $665. Rates vary based on the worker’s prior earnings. The Kentucky Career Center provides a benefits calculator to estimate an individual worker’s eligible benefits.
To maintain eligibility, workers must show they have completed work search activities and remain available to accept work.
Workplace Rights and Protections
Discrimination and harassment
All employers with 8 or more employees must follow the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.
This law prohibits discrimination in the workplace with the same legal requirements as 2 federal laws: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. It specifically makes it illegal to discriminate in employment based on:
- National origin.
Kentucky also has a law against wage discrimination that mimics the federal Equal Pay Act. This law prohibits compensating employees differently for comparable work based only on the employee’s sex. The law applies to all employers with 15 or more employees.
Filing a complaint
The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights is responsible for accepting complaints regarding employment discrimination in the state.
Alternatively, individuals can file a complaint with the Louisville office of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
🧠 Did You Know?
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|Leave Type||Covered by KY Law?||Leave Law Details|
|𐄂 Family and Medical Leave||No||The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requirements apply in Kentucky.|
|𐄂 Paid Sick Leave||No||Kentucky doesn’t require employers to offer paid sick leave.|
Employers are required to provide unpaid leave if FMLA requirements apply.
Employers offering paid sick leave by policy or contract must comply with their own rules.
|𐄂 Paid Family Leave||No||Kentucky doesn’t require employers to offer paid family leave.|
Employers offering paid family leave by policy or contract must comply with their own rules.
|𐄂 Family Bereavement Leave||No||Kentucky doesn’t require employers to offer bereavement leave.|
Employers offering bereavement leave by policy or contract must comply with their own rules.
|✔ Military Leave||Yes||Employers are required to grant an unpaid leave of absence for an employee to attend active duty or training in the National Guard.|
Employees returning from military leave are entitled to full reinstatement to their positions.
Employers must also follow federal requirements under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
|✔ Jury Duty Leave||Yes||An employer may not terminate or otherwise threaten an employee because they have received a jury summons. |
Employers aren’t required to provide paid leave for jury duty.
Employers may not require employees to use accrued vacation or sick leave for time spent responding to a jury summons.
|✔ Voting Leave||Yes||An employee who gives at least 1 day’s notice must be granted a reasonable amount of time (at least 4 hours) to vote or request an absentee ballot. |
An employer can specify which hours the employee may take for voting leave.
|𐄂 Pregnancy and Parental Leave||No||Kentucky doesn’t require employers to offer pregnancy or parental leave.|
Employers must comply with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
Employers offering pregnancy or parental leave by policy or contract must comply with their own rules.
|𐄂 Vacation and Personal Leave||No||Kentucky doesn’t require employers to offer vacation or personal leave.|
Employers offering vacation or personal leave by policy or contract must comply with their own rules.
Child Labor Laws
Kentucky’s child labor laws set a general minimum age of 14 years for employment unless employed through an approved school program.
A child aged 11 or older may be employed as a golf caddy, and a child who’s at least 12 may work as a referee or official in a youth athletic program.
Kentucky law excludes the following types of work from child labor restrictions:
- Farm work.
- Domestic service in a private home.
- Casual domestic tasks, such as grass cutting or carrying ashes.
- Newspaper delivery.
- Acting or performing.
- Employment by the child’s parents or guardians in non-hazardous occupations.
Minors under 18 may not work in any of the following:
- Manufacturing occupations.
- Motor vehicle driving.
- Any form of mining, including coal mining.
- Logging or sawmill operations.
- Operation of power-driven machinery, such as forklifts, woodworking machinery, or meat processing equipment.
- Workplaces with exposure to radioactive substances.
- Demolition services.
- Work performed on a roof.
- Excavating operations.
- Establishments where alcohol is created or served.
- Pool or billiards rooms.
Exemptions may be requested from the Kentucky Division of Wages and Hours for 16- and 17-year-old employees in an apprentice capacity.
Working hours are limited for minor employees under 18.
Employers of minors must provide at least 30 minutes for a lunch break after no more than 5 hours of work. Kentucky employers must also provide an unpaid rest break of at least 10 minutes to minor employees for each 4 hours worked.
Minors aged 14 or 15 years may not work before 7am. From the day after Labor Day through the end of May, they may not work later than 7pm. Between June 1 and through Labor Day, they may work as late as 9pm.
When school is in session, they may not work over 3 hours on a school day or 7 hours on a non-school day. They cannot work more than 18 hours per week while school is in session. When school isn’t in session, they may work up to 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week.
Minors aged 16 or 17 years may not work before 6am. They may not work later than 10:30pm on nights before a school day (11pm with parent permission) or 1am on nights before a non-school day.
When school is in session, they may not work over 6 hours (6.5 with parent permission) on a school day or 8 hours on a non-school day. They cannot work more than 30 hours (40 with parent permission) per week while school is in session. There are no restrictions on hours when school isn’t in session for 16- and 17-year-olds.
Kentucky will assess a civil penalty between $100 and $1,000 for violations of child labor laws. Repeated violations may be assessed a $100 penalty for every day the violation continues.
Workplace Safety and Health
The Kentucky Division of Occupational Safety and Health Compliance enforces the state’s workplace safety and health regulations.
Employees can file a notice of alleged safety or health hazard online or by mailing a letter to the Kentucky Division of Occupational Safety and Health Compliance.
Labor Union Regulations
Kentucky is a right-to-work state. This means employers can’t condition employment based on an employee’s status as a member or non-member of a labor union. Employers also can’t require employees to pay union dues.
There’s no Kentucky agency that handles union or labor organizing complaints. Labor disputes should instead be reported to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Employment Contracts and Severance
Employment contract laws
Kentucky is an “at-will” state.
This means Kentucky employers can terminate an employee for any reason or no reason, with or without notice, so long as it isn’t otherwise prohibited by law.
The only exception to at-will employment in Kentucky arises when a termination violates public policy. This occurs when the termination is based on an action prohibited by law, and the action is related to employment. In the Kentucky Supreme Court case that established this exception, the employee was terminated as punishment for seeking workers’ compensation.
Non-compete agreements are generally allowed under Kentucky law, but they must not place an undue burden on the employee. These agreements are generally reviewed on a case-by-case basis and may be deemed unenforceable if a court finds them unreasonable.
Non-solicitation agreements are also generally allowed in Kentucky but are subject to case-by-case review for reasonableness.
Employers in Kentucky aren’t required to offer severance pay in any form.
Additional Laws That Might Apply to You
Drug testing and drug-free workplace
Employers in Kentucky may drug test employees and can terminate employment for an at-will employee following a positive result on a random drug test. Employers that require drug testing as a condition of employment must pay for the test.
Kentucky employers must maintain test results records as confidential. They can release results only with written permission from the employee or a court order.
The state incentivizes employers to become certified as a drug-free workplace by offering workers’ compensation insurance discounts.
To become certified, an employer must implement certain program steps, including:
- Alcohol and substance abuse training.
- A reasonable suspicion testing policy.
- An employee assistance program.
- A testing program to test after a conditional offer of employment is made and when an employee has completed an employee assistance program for drug or alcohol problems.
- Testing panels meeting specific thresholds for positive tests.
- Test results performed by a qualified laboratory.
- Medical review of all test results.
If an employee fails a drug test after a workplace injury, the employer won’t be liable to compensate for the injury. Unemployment benefits may also be denied if an employee is at work under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Kentucky employers may hire a person with a history of substance abuse (without potential liability for negligent hiring) if they establish an approved support program and require the employee to comply with the program’s recommendations.
Employers in Kentucky can’t prohibit employees from keeping a firearm in a vehicle on the employer’s property if the employee is legally entitled to possess the firearm.
It’s against Kentucky law for any employer with 8 or more employees to discriminate against an employee because they’re a smoker or a non-smoker.
Employers may offer incentives to employees who participate in voluntary stop-smoking programs but can’t require employees to abstain from smoking outside of work.
There are no smoking restrictions in private workplaces in Kentucky.
Employers with 15 or more employees must provide a private space (that isn’t a bathroom) for employees to express breast milk at work.
An employer doesn’t have to provide an accommodation if they can show it would cause undue hardship.
The Kentucky Whistleblower Act protects public employees from punishment for identifying government fraud, abuse, or actions causing danger to the public.
This law doesn’t extend to private businesses.
COVID-19-related laws and regulations
Kentucky has no active laws or regulations regarding COVID-19.
Navigating Legal Issues and Resources
You can find further guidance on employment laws and programs in Kentucky through the following resources:
- Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services
- Kentucky Department of Workers’ Claims
- Kentucky Office of Unemployment Insurance
- Kentucky Commission on Human Rights
- Kentucky Division of Wages and Hours
- Kentucky Division of Occupational Safety and Health Compliance
Kentucky Legal Aid is a free legal assistance provider for workers in Kentucky.
Kentucky labor laws frequently align with federal regulations, but occasional conflicts can arise between local, state, and federal statutes. Consulting with an attorney is the best way to understand individual employer obligations and employee rights.
The information presented on this website about Kentucky labor laws in the United States is intended to be accurate and informative. However, laws and regulations can change and may vary depending on individual circumstances. While we have made every effort to ensure the information provided is up-to-date and reliable, we cannot guarantee its completeness or accuracy. Therefore, we strongly recommend that readers seek guidance from their legal department or a qualified attorney to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. Please note that we cannot be held liable for any actions taken or not taken based on the information presented on this website.