What Is the Minimum Wage in Kentucky?

Daniel Bagley
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Kentucky is a state where the minimum wage has been stagnant for many years. What’s more, for certain employers and employees, there are exceptions and exemptions to the minimum wage requirement. Be sure to read the details below to find out whether you’re exempt from the Kentucky minimum wage.

2020 Minimum Wage in Kentucky: $7.25 per hour

By state law, the minimum wage in Kentucky is $7.25 per hour. The state began changing the minimum wage in 2008, when it went from $5.85 to $6.55 per hour. In 2009, Kentucky settled on the current minimum wage rate and it hasn’t changed since, despite calls to raise it and attempts by the cities of Lexington and Louisville to adopt their own minimum wages.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), there are some exceptions to the Kentucky minimum wage that may apply to you. Your employer doesn’t have to pay you $7.25 per hour if:

  • You work at a restaurant or other establishment where you earn tips (see “Tipped” section below);
  • You’re a full-time student who earns at least 85% of the minimum wage working for a qualifying business that has obtained a certificate from the Department of Labor; businesses that qualify for the Full-Time Student Program include retail and service stores, agricultural operations, as well as colleges and universities;
  • You’re a student learner no younger than 16 participating in a high school vocational education program, in which case the employer can pay you 75% of the minimum wage;
  • You’re under the age of 20 and you haven’t been employed for more than 90 calendar days, in which case your employer can pay you $4.25 per hour until you’ve been employed for 90 days, or you turn 20, whichever comes first.

Moreover, Kentucky adheres to the federal exemptions to the minimum wage requirement. Your employer doesn’t have to pay you $7.25 per hour if:

  • You’re a farmworker employed on a small farm;
  • You’re a seasonal worker, or you’re employed at a recreational or amusement establishment that satisfies either of the government’s tests for exemption;
  • You’re an executive, administrative, professional or outside sales employee who works for a salary instead of an hourly wage (also see “Overtime” section below);
  • You’re a casual babysitter, a companion for the elderly, a worker with a disability that limits your productivity, a federal criminal investigator, a maritime employee on a private vessel, a fisherman, a homeworker who makes wreaths, a newspaper delivery person or employee at a newspaper with limited circulation, or a switchboard operator.

Keep reading to find out how Kentucky figures the minimum wage for tipped employees.

Tipped: $2.13 per hour

Kentucky follows the federal tipping laws and allows tip credits, meaning employers whose workers receive tips can pay those employees $2.13 an hour under several conditions. The employee must make at least $30 per month in tips and $7.25 per hour with tips and wages combined. If the employee’s tips and hourly wage don’t equal the minimum wage on any given day, the employer has to make up the difference.

Weekly: $290

An employee who earns the Kentucky minimum wage and works a full-time 40-hour workweek will earn a total of $290 before taxes.

Annually: $15,080

An employee who earns the Kentucky minimum wage and works a full-time 40-hour workweeks for an entire year will earn $15,080 before taxes. However, if the employer isn’t open for business on any of the federally mandated holidays and the employee doesn’t earn holiday pay, the employee’s yearly income will be less than $15,080.

Overtime: $10.88 per hour

An employee who earns the Kentucky minimum wage will earn the federal overtime wage rate of 1.5 times the minimum wage for any hours worked over 40 in a week, meaning they will earn $10.88 per hour for overtime.

There are many cases in which employees are exempt from the overtime law. Your employer doesn’t have to pay you overtime in Kentucky if:

  • You work for an employer who qualifies for any of the exceptions to the minimum wage requirement;
  • You’re a salesperson who earns commissions that make up more than half of your earnings, and you average more than 1.5 times the minimum wage;
  • You’re a computer professional who earns at least $27.63 per hour;
  • You’re a trucker, trucker’s assistant, loader, or mechanic;
  • You’re a car or boat salesperson, parts person, or mechanic for a dealership;
  • You’re an aircraft salesperson, airline employee, recreational employee at a national park, wildlife refuge or forest, a buyer of agricultural products, a rural elevator worker, a live-in domestic worker, a farm tools salesperson, a firefighter in a small fire department, a forestry employee at a small business, a produce trucker, a residential administrator at a nonprofit school, a livestock auction worker, a delivery driver, a lumber operations employee at a small business, a theater employee, a police officer at a small department, a radio station employee in a small market, a railroad employee, a maritime employee on an American vessel, a sugar processor, a taxi driver, a TV station employee in a small market, or a truck/trailer salesperson.

Kentucky Minimum Wage Increase News

While other states have allowed cities to raise the minimum wage above the state rate, Kentucky has not. In 2017, the Kentucky Supreme Court struck down ordinances that had independently raised the minimum wage in the cities of Louisville and Lexington.

In 2018, a senator from Lexington pre-filed a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Proposals to double Kentucky’s minimum wage by 2027 are being considered by the Kentucky General Assembly.

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