All workers in the Blue Grass State are protected by federal and state laws from the time they're hired through job termination and post-termination benefits. Kentucky workers should know some of the unique employment laws that affect them.
Any jobs listed online, in newsprint, or in trade journals must avoid discrimination based on personal characteristics. When screening applicants, employers must not consider factors such as race, gender, national origin, religion or disability. Although employers can ask various questions to determine the best applicant for the job, they also can't inquire about an individual’s marital status, if they have children, or if they have an arrest record. An employer is permitted to ask disabled applicants if they need an accommodation to perform the job. Find more information about employment discrimination FAQs.
Minimum Wages/Overtime Regulations
Minimum wage and overtime laws are embodied in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. Kentucky’s minimum wage is the same as the federal rare, $7.25. Employers can pay tipped employees as little as $2.13 an hour as long as their total tips and wages equal the hourly minimum wage of $7.25. Workers are entitled to an overtime rate of 1.5 times their average hourly rate for each hour worked over 40 in a week. Certain agricultural workers, outside salespersons, domestic service workers, bona fide executives, and administrative or professional salaried workers are exempt from these rules.
A Hazard-Free Work Environment
A safe working environment must be guaranteed to all workers under state and federal laws. Any employee can anonymously report safety violations and they're entitled to protection from retaliation.
Worker’s Compensation Benefits
Most employers must maintain workers compensation coverage. This is an insurance system with no requirement that fault be found regarding an employee's injury or illness. Workers compensation coverage provides wage loss compensation, rehabilitation, disability payments, and medical coverage for work-related injuries or illnesses. It also provides survivor death benefits. Statutory guidelines determine the amount of benefits that can be paid. Individuals not covered include family members of a sole proprietor if they reside in the employer’s household, household domestic workers, casual workers, and associate real estate salespersons who are paid solely on a commission basis.
Laws Regarding Time Off
Kentucky follows the federal Family and Medical Leave Act for employees who work for companies with at least 50 employees, as well as all public employees. Employees must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the past year to take up to 12 weeks off per 12 months worked. They can do so to care for a family member or for themselves if they suffer a serious medical condition. Family medical leave also covers care for a newborn or a newly adopted child. Employees may take up to 26 months to care for a military family member. No comparable state act extends benefits for employees not covered under the federal law. State law allows workers who are registered to vote up to four hours off on Election Day if they give reasonable notice and the request is approved in advance. Voters using absentee ballots have the same right to time off to cast their ballots before Election Day.
Harassment of employees is unlawful, including sexually explicit comments, jokes, photos, drawings or emails that create a hostile working environment. Employees and supervisors can't threaten or intimidate employees or engage in unwelcome physical contact of any kind. Harassment also includes offensive gestures or comments directed at employees based on their religion, national origin, gender, race or disability. The conduct must be continuous or pervasive. Retaliatory actions against an employee who has been disciplined, discharged, demoted or who voluntarily resigns because of a hostile working environment is actionable or grounds for a lawsuit.
Laws Regarding Discharge
Kentucky state law allows employers and employees to end their employment relationship for any reason and without notice if there is no written contract or if the contract states that employment is “at will.” However, employers can't fire workers for being a member of a protected class. Protected classes include pregnancy, age, having a work-related injury or illness, gender, race, religion, or national origin. If an employer promises a paid vacation by contract, policy or practice, this is considered part of a worker’s wages, so a terminated employee must be paid for any unused and accrued vacation time.
Unemployment and COBRA
To qualify for unemployment, residents or in-state workers must have been discharged through no fault of their own, must not be disabled, must be actively seeking work, and must report any income they earn, as well as job offers they receive. They must be able to work. Federal COBRA laws require that employers with at least 20 full-time employees allow discharged workers the right to continue group health benefits for up to 12 months after termination. Kentucky also has a mini-COBRA law that requires employers with two to 19 employees to extend health coverage for up to 18 months if they've worked for the company at least three months
See a Kentucky Employment Attorney
Employment laws differ in each state. Consult a Kentucky employment attorney if you have questions regarding any employment matters.
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