Is Kentucky an Employment-at-Will State?

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

Am I an At-Will Employee?

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.

What Does Employment-at-Will Mean for Me?

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.