These are some of the most frequently asked questions that we hear from potential clients at Abney Law. However, at Abney Law we don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to our clients because there is rarely a one-size-fits-all answer. Be sure to contact one of our Employment Law Attorneys if you have specific questions about how you’ve been treated at work.

Short Answer: Yes, Kentucky is an employment-at-will state.

Probably.  Every worker in Kentucky who is employed by a private person or entity and doesn’t have a written employment contract is almost certainly an At-Will employee.  At-Will employment is generally the default employment status in Kentucky.

Public employees – workers employed by the state or local governments, for example, often have additional employment protections not available to private employees that remove them from employment-at-will status.

At the most basic level, being an at-will employee means that an individual can be fired for any reason, even if it’s a bad or unfair reason.  In fact, an at-will employee can be fired for no reason at all.  The Kentucky Supreme Court has said, “employer may discharge his at-will employee for good cause, no cause, or for a cause that some might view as morally indefensible.” Firestone Textile Co. Div. v. Meadows, 666 S.W.2d 730, 731 (Ky. 1984)

However, one big exception applies to the employment at will doctrine: No worker in Kentucky can be fired for an illegal reason.  This means regardless of whether you’re an at-will employee, you are still protected by state and federal laws like the Kentucky Civil Rights Act and the Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act that make workplace discrimination and firing employees based on race, gender, religion, age, disabililty, color, and national origin illegal.  There are a host of other laws that apply in Kentucky like the Family Medical Leave Act, Kentucky Workers’ Compensation Act, and the Kentucky Patient Safety Act, just to name a few, that protect workers from wrongful termination and retaliation.

So remember, even though you may be an at-will employee, you still have workplace protections that are intended to keep you and your job safe.

Generally, if you earn wages during the same period that you are receiving unemployment benefits, your benefits can be reduced or cut-off. But is severance pay considered “wages” for the purposes of unemployment benefits in Kentucky. The short answer, according to Kentucky courts and the Kentucky Unemployment Insurance Commission, is no.[1] According to the Kentucky Unemployment Commission, severance payments are neither deductible nor disqualifying wages for weeks following separation. The Commission has treated earned vacation pay paid out at termination in the same way, i.e. it is not a disqualifying or deductible wage for purposes of benefits.

However, if you’re confused as to whether a payment you receive at the end of your employment is considered “severance pay” by the Kentucky Unemployment Insurance Commission, contact the Employment Law attorneys at Abney Law and schedule a free consultation today. And remember, failure to properly report wages and income to the Unemployment Commission can result in serious penalties, disqualification from benefits, repayment requirements, and, in some cases, criminal prosecution.

Maybe. It all depends on whether your employer has a policy of paying out accrued vacation pay. Even if that policy isn’t formalized in the employee handbook or an employment contract, you still may be entitled to the vacation pay if it is your employer’s standard practice to pay out vacation pay when an employee leaves.

If you think you’ve been denied PTO or accrued vacation pay, or any other type of pay, at your work, contact the Wage and Hour Attorneys at Abney Law and schedule a free consultation today. Everyone is entitled to a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

Traditional Hourly Employees

Currently, the minimum wage for non-exempt employees in Kentucky is $7.25 per hour. Pursuant to KRS § 337.275(1), the minimum wage in Kentucky is tied to and changes with the federal minimum wage.

Tipped Employees

The minimum wage in Kentucky for tipped employees who receive $30.00 or more per month in tips from customers is $2.13 per hour. However, when tips and the hourly wage are combined, their total must equal at least $7.25 per hour. See KRS § 337.275(2)

When a job unexpectedly ends, most people are left wondering how they’re going to pay the bills. Fortunately, Kentucky has a system in place that provides unemployment insurance benefits to to workers who have lost their job due to no fault of their own.

Some workers in Kentucky are also fortunate to be offered severance pay by their former employer when a job ends.