State of Kentucky Lunch and Break Law

You might be interested to know that Kentucky is one of 19 states with specific state regulations regarding employee meals and breaks.

Kentucky state law stipulates that a “reasonable meal period” must be provided to all employees. Usually this is expected to be a 30 minute meal break, but it can be shorter if work conditions make it necessary. This meal break may generally be unpaid if it is at least 30 minutes long, but only if the employee is completely relieved of his or her duties. If the worker must do any job duties during the meal break, it must instead be a paid meal break. Finally, this break must be between the 3rd and 5th hour of the employee’s work day.

I also found it interesting that Kentucky law mandates paid rest periods for all employees. For each four hour work period, a worker must be given a ten minute paid rest period.

Kentucky also has a special meal break requirement for workers under the age of 18. Employees ages 14 to 17 must be given a 30 minute lunch break for each five hours they work continuously.

Finally, Kentucky state law reiterates principles also found in Federal law regarding sleep time, waiting time, and travel time. Whether or not waiting time needs to be considered paid work hours depends on the situation. If an employee is allowed to do something of his or her choosing while waiting for another task to be finished or while waiting at the workplace for his or her services to be called upon, it is generally considered work time. On the other hand, if an employee is waiting to be called upon, but has great freedom to do what he or she wishes while on call (and has plenty of time to respond to the call), it is not generally considered paid work time.

When it comes to sleeping time, employees required to be on duty less than 24 hours is considered to be “working” even if he or she is permitted to sleep during some of those hours when not busy. If an employee is on duty more than 24 hours, a sleeping period of no more than eight hours may be deducted from work hours. However, this can only be done if sleeping quarters are provided and at least five hours of uninterrupted sleep may be achieved by the employee.

Then there is the issue of travel time. The general rule of thumb is that time spent in the normal day’s commute to and from work is not considered paid working time. However, if an employee is traveling in the course of a days work, it must be considered paid work time.

A thorough presentation of state and federal laws related to lunches and breaks may be found on the Kentucky Complete Labor Law Poster. This poster also presents required notices for all areas of both state and federal labor laws.

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7 Thoughts on “State of Kentucky Lunch and Break Law”

jack strong

May 25, 2008 at 11:55 pm

I worked in Kentucky at a small print shop. We worked 12-hour shifts and were not allowed to take breaks or lunches. This policy was never written down before. Recently when my helper took 15 to 20 min lunch periods the plant manager put in writing that he was not allowed to take breaks or lunches. I’ve recently contacted the Kentucky Department of Labor and reported this, and faxed them copies of the letters. They told me that my now former employer would receive fines for this. I was contacted two weeks later by the local Department of Labor representative who told me he was going to visit my former employer and that they were in trouble. Neither person I talked to from the Labor Board could believe that the plant manager put this in writing.
The local representative contacted me after he visited plant and told me he talked to nine people at the plant and no one would sign anything saying that they were not allowed breaks or lunches. I asked him if they were not going to do anything about what was going on. He said he was going back there next week unannounced and talk to the night shift and see if they would confirm what I reported and what was in the letters that the plant manager wrote. That was two months ago, I have not heard from him since.
My younger brother talked to one of the employees that still works there and he told my brother that when the Labor Board came down there that there was nothing they could do because there is a stack of scrap paper by the printing press where he could sit and that would be his break and that there was nothing they could do about no lunches because the employer claims the press is continuously running and it falls under the railway act.

michael simley

April 3, 2009 at 7:31 pm

Please send me literature on breaks and lunches. I work in West Virginia. But they say I have to adhere to Kentucky law when it comes to breaks if you could send me some literature it would be greatly apreciated thank you


April 4, 2009 at 10:45 am

Hi Michael! Unfortunately, we don’t have any literature on Kentucky breaks available. But if you search our archives, you will find an article on breaks in Kentucky. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia


February 16, 2010 at 7:42 pm

It would be really nice if [employer name deleted] would implement Kentucky State law in all its operating states. would help the team members and the Company.


February 16, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Hi John! The problem with that is … it is illegal. Each employer must follow the laws in the state where the employees are employed, by law. For example, a company based in Kentucky must follow the California law for workers in California and the Texas laws for employees in Texas. Doing anything else could easily result in the company breaking the law. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Amelia


May 2, 2014 at 7:51 pm

I work in a factory in Ky 12hrs a day and I was wondering how many breaks we are actually
supposed to get..we are being told 2 10min & 1 20min break in a 12hr shift..any help asap
would be great

mary jo

April 2, 2015 at 11:14 pm

Can a company give absence point when employee receives phone call to come in 4 hours early for shift or mandates to say over and employee cannot do. Was hired as hourly employee not on call. Also when did companies start the no lunch or only give employee 10 minutes for lunch in a factory setting where employee is standinding for full 8 hour shift. Also uncertain of lifting requirements in kentucky, when employer doesn’t fix or have equipment readily available for heavy lifting.

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