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Monday, April 15, 2024

Kentucky Bill Threatens Workers’ Meal and Rest Breaks

StoriesKentucky Bill Threatens Workers' Meal and Rest Breaks

A controversial bill, House Bill 500, proposing the elimination of meal and rest breaks for Kentucky workers, is advancing through the legislative process in Frankfort. Sponsored by Georgetown Republican Rep. Phillip Pratt, the bill has ignited debate over workers’ rights and safety standards in the state.

Proposed Changes and Rationale

Currently, Kentucky law mandates that employers provide at least a 10-minute rest break for every four hours of work, along with scheduled lunch breaks every three to five hours. However, HB 500 seeks to remove these requirements, arguing for alignment with federal labor standards.

Pratt, who also owns Pratt’s Lawn & Landscape, a landscaping business based in Georgetown, contends that aligning state labor laws with federal standards would simplify compliance for employers. “The fact that you have state and federal law which says you must do this, then you have state law that says you gotta do that, running afoul of them becomes very easy because of the fact that there are two different standards that an employee must work under. Basically, what this does is moves us right and almost equal to the federal labor standards so that we actually can navigate this system a whole lot easier,” Pratt stated.

Concerns and Criticisms

In addition to the elimination of meal and rest breaks, HB 500 proposes other significant changes. These include the removal of seventh-day overtime, the elimination of liability for failure to provide proper pay for time spent traveling between job sites, and a reduction in the statute of limitations for labor violations from five years to three.

Critics of the bill, including the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, argue that these provisions pose a threat to worker safeguards. According to a bill analysis, “Collectively, these provisions weaken multiple common sense protections for safe working conditions and fair pay that have been a part of Kentucky’s safeguards for half a century. HB 500 will make work more dangerous by depriving workers of food and rest, incentivizing them to travel too quickly to get to their job site, and discouraging them from taking proper precautions at the beginning of shifts. And it will take pay away from workers when they are moving between job locations, working excessive weeks, and putting on and off equipment necessary to do a job.”

Broader Implications and Political Context

This move to strip workers of meal and rest breaks comes amid broader efforts by Republicans to relax labor laws in Kentucky, including proposals to loosen child labor laws.

As HB 500 progresses through the legislative process, it continues to spark intense debate between proponents advocating for business-friendly regulations and opponents concerned about the potential adverse effects on workers’ well-being and safety.

Stay tuned for further updates on the progress of HB 500 and its implications for Kentucky’s workforce.

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