While most workers in America are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act, a federal law ensuring a minimum hourly wage and overtime pay, many states have their own specific regulations.
Kentucky’s Overtime, Wage & Hour Laws
Kentucky is no exception.
But while some states have set a minimum wage higher than the federal rate, Kentucky distinguishes itself by defining an additional range of workers who are exempt from the minimum wage and overtime requirements.
What Is The Minimum Wage In Kentucky?
Kentucky’s minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. The vast majority of workers in the state will be entitled to at least that much.
Some employees of very small businesses may be “exempt” from Kentucky’s minimum wage and overtime laws, and thus not entitled to an hourly wage of $7.25.
If the business you work for made less than $95,000 in gross sales the last five years, and can be classified as:
- a retail business that makes most of its money selling goods and services
- a hotel
- a motel
- a restaurant
you may be exempt from both the state’s minimum wage and overtime requirements. For a detailed interpretation of the businesses who may not have to pay their workers minimum wage, visit the website for Kentucky’s legislature.
Overtime Pay Requirements
Most employees in Kentucky are guaranteed overtime wages for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek. These “premium” wages have to be paid at one-and-a-half your “regular rate” of pay.
If you’re covered by the law, and work seven days in a row, you’re also entitled to time-and-a-half for any hours worked on that seventh day, but only if you’ve worked at least 40 hours during the week.
Your regular rate can be the same as your base cash wage, but it can also include some bonuses and other payments you received during the week. To learn how to calculate the regular rate, whether or not you earn tips, click here.
A “workweek” can start on any day; Kentucky’s overtime law just defines it as “seven consecutive twenty-four hour periods.”
Workers in the state are not entitled to overtime for hours worked over 8 in a day, hours worked on the weekend or holidays, unless those hours bring a worker’s weekly total over 40.
Is Anyone Exempt From Kentucky’s Overtime Requirements?
Many of these exemptions follow the Fair Labor Standards Act, including the federal law’s exemptions for employees accurately classified as “executives,” “professionals,” “administrators” and “outside salespeople.”
But Kentucky’s law diverges from the FLSA in notable ways. Under this state statute, overtime pay isn’t mandated for:
- anyone working in agriculture
- employees of the federal government
- workers employed in domestic service “in or about a private home”
- many “learners,” apprentices, workers with disabilities, workers in sheltered workshops and students, who have a certificate from the state that exempts them from overtime
- workers at small retail stores, hotels, motels and restaurants. To be “small” enough, the business has to have made less than $95,000 in gross sales the last five years.
- workers at retail stores, hotels, motels and restaurants (regardless of the business’ sales) who are the parent, spouse or child of their employer
- live-in babysitters
- newspaper delivery people who deliver direct to customers
- employees at nonprofit camps, religious institutions or nonprofit education conferences that aren’t open more than 7 months a year
- people working for private, nonprofit childcare facilities whose duty is providing 24-hour care (on the employer’s premises) in a parental role to children who are “primarily dependent, neglected, and abused”
- workers who provide 24-hour care within their own home as a family caregiver to an adult with a disability and are approved to do so by a community board
As in federal law, truly “independent” contractors aren’t covered by Kentucky’s wage and hour laws, either. But more often than not, especially under a new guidance issued by the Department of Labor, workers are misclassified as independent contractors. These people are actually employees, and should be paid at minimum wage, with overtime for their extra work.
To learn whether or not you may be misclassified as an independent contractor, click here.
Can My Employer “Average” My Workweeks Together?
The state’s overtime pay law, an official interpretation of which can be found here, explicitly rejects the practice of “averaging” workweeks together, a common scheme employer’s use to shirk their overtime responsibilities.
For example, Julie works 50 hours one week and 30 the next. Since, she’s paid on a biweekly basis, her boss tells her that she isn’t entitled to overtime pay since she only worked 80 hours during the pay period.
According to Kentucky and federal law, that’s illegal. Julie should be paid premium wages for the 10 hours she worked over 40 the first week.
Am I Entitled To Meal & Rest Breaks?
Kentucky’s wage and hour laws entitle you to a rest break at least 10 minutes long for each four hours that you work. But this is considered hours worked and you should be paid for it.
You’re also entitled to a “reasonable” period of time for a meal break, which has to come between the 3rd and 5th hour of your shift. What counts as “reasonable” is left up for interpretation, but the “Hours worked” section of Kentucky’s labor law suggests that “thirty minutes or more is [ordinarily] long enough.”
Bona fide (real or genuine) meal breaks are not considered hours worked, and thus don’t count toward your wages or overtime, but you have to be “completely freed from duties” for that to be true.
Sometimes this criteria becomes a problem. Many hospitals automatically deduct a predetermined meal break from their employees’ hours. But if a nurse is interrupted on their break by an emergency, they haven’t truly been “freed” from their duties and should be compensated for that time. Numerous lawsuits have been brought against medical facilities for wage and hour violations like that.
Big retailers like Pottery Barn and Brooks Brothers have also been hit by class actions claiming employers failed to pay for interrupted meal breaks.
How You Can Sue May Be Different In Kentucky
Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, employees who believe they’re the victims of wage theft are allowed to bring civil lawsuits against their employers on behalf of themselves “and other employees similarly situated.” In other words, the law specifically allows for “representative” or “class” actions.
But Kentucky’s law doesn’t have the same language. In KRS 337.385, a state law, it says that “any one (1) or more employees [can bring a wage and hour violation lawsuit] for and in behalf of himself, herself, or themselves.” There’s no mention of “similarly situated” workers or representative actions.
In Absence Of Supreme Court Review, No Wage & Hour Class Actions Under Kentucky Law
For a long time, Kentucky’s courts allowed class actions brought under KRS 337.385 anyway, even though the statute doesn’t specifically mention them.
But in 2013, a State Court of Appeals denied class-action status to a lawsuit brought against Toyota, writing that representative lawsuits weren’t permitted under Kentucky’s wage and hour laws.
In a recent case, the Court of Appeals seconded that earlier decision. A Sullivan University employee attempted to sue the school for herself, and on behalf of other admissions officers, for allegedly misclassifying them as exempt from Kentucky’s overtime provisions. But the Court again ruled that KRS 337.385 “did not permit actions to be brought on behalf of employees who are similarly situated.”
While Kentucky’s Supreme Court could review the Appeals Court’s decision and overturn it, class actions cannot be brought under Kentucky State law for now. Representative actions brought under the FLSA, however, are still possible.