Kentucky Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower Laws as they apply to the state of Kentucky

A Summary of Kentucky Whistleblower Laws

Employers in Kentucky do not need to establish cause for termination when they discharge their employees under what is known as the employment-at-will doctrine. However, the state of Kentucky has two exceptions to this doctrine. They include statutory protections and common law protections. Statutory protections are laws enacted by the state’s legislature to address specific subject areas, e.g., minimum wage, whereas common law protections are laws that are created in courts to address areas that are not covered by statutes.

This is a summary of Kansas Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.

Whistleblower Rights in Kentucky

Common Law Protections for Whistleblowers in Kentucky

Kentucky recognizes a public policy exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. This means an employer cannot fire an employee for reasons that violate public policy. For example, if a statute endorses an employee’s right to collect a wage not less than the minimum wage, an employer who discharges an employee in retaliation for exercising a right under this statute may be found guilty of violating public policy.

Statutory Protections

Public Employees

Employers are not allowed to threaten, discharge, or use official authority to in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Disclosing information concerning a violation of a law, rule, or statute.
  • Disclosing information concerning mismanagement, waste, fraud, abuse of authority, or a substantial danger to public health or safety.
  • Aiding or substantiating an employee who discloses wrongdoing.

Also, employers are not allowed to require employees to give them notice before making a disclosure. Some of the authorities to which an employee can make a disclosure include the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, the Attorney General, the Auditor of Public Accounts, the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, and the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Ky. Rev. Stat. § 61.102.

Discrimination

It is considered unlawful for an individual to conspire to discharge or in any way discriminate against another individual in retaliation for:

  • Opposing a discriminatory practice that is outlawed by this statute.
  • Making a charge or filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Participating in a proceeding, investigation, or hearing under this statute.
  • Exercising a right endorsed by this statute on behalf of himself, herself, or others.

Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 344.280.

Discrimination concerning Disabled Persons

Under this statute, employers are not allowed to discharge, refuse to hire, or in any way discriminate against an individual in retaliation for:

  • Opposing a practice deemed unfair by this statute.
  • Filing a charge under this statute.
  • Testifying or participating in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this statute.

Under this statute, employers are not allowed to discharge, refuse to hire, alter terms of employment, or in any way discriminate against an individual because of the individual’s disability unless the disability restricts the individual from engaging in a particular occupation.

Medical Assistance Fraud

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee without just cause in retaliation for:

  • Making a report concerning fraud or a violation to the state Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding related to this statute.

Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 205.8465.

Minimum Wage

It is illegal for an employer to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Making a complaint regarding unpaid wages to the employer or commissioner.
  • Instituting a proceeding related to this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding related to this statute.

Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 337.990.

Mining

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for testifying or failing to testify in a hearing concerning mine safety hosted by the Department of Natural Resources. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 351.030.

Occupational Safety and Health

No person is allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Instituting a proceeding related to this statute.
  • Testifying in a proceeding related to this statute.
  • Exercising a right endorsed by this statute on behalf of himself, herself, or others.

Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 338.121.

Wage Payment Discrimination

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee because the employee took an action to invoke or participate in the enforcement of this statute. Under this statute, it is against the law for an employer to discriminate against employees based on sex by paying different wages to employees of a certain gender even though employees of both sexes are working comparable jobs. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 337.423.

Workers’ Compensation

No individual is allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 342.197.

Whistleblower Hotlines in Kentucky

To file a complaint under the discrimination statute, call the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights at 502-595-4024.

To file a complaint under the discrimination statute concerning Disabled Persons, call the Kentucky Department of Workplace Standards at (502) 564-3070.

To file a complaint under the Occupational Safety and Health statute, call the Department of Labor, Office of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) at (502) 385-0716.

Retaliation Claims in Kentucky

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, retaliation claims should be filed within 5 years of the retaliatory action.

Public Employees

Claims under this statute should be filed within 90 days of the retaliation.

Discrimination

Employees are required to file complaints with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights (KCHR) within 180 days of the retaliation.

Discrimination concerning Disabled Persons

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Kentucky Department of Workplace Standards. Whistleblowers can also choose to file a lawsuit, but they must first notify the executive director of the Office of Workplace Standards 30 days before they file the lawsuit.

Occupational Safety and Health

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Department of Labor, Office of Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) within a reasonable time after the retaliation.

Wage Discrimination

In case of unlawful retaliation, employees should file a lawsuit within 6 months of the retaliation.

Retaliation and Violation Penalties in Kentucky

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:

  • Punitive damages.
  • Injunctive relief.
  • Reinstatement to the previous job position.
  • Reinstatement of full fringe benefits and privileges.
  • Litigation costs.

Public Employees

Employers who are found guilty of carrying out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for punitive damages or appropriate injunctive relief, or both.

Minimum Wage

Employers who are found guilty of carrying out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to pay a civil penalty ranging from $100 to $1000.

More Kentucky Laws

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