Kentucky bill could end workers’ lunch, rest breaks and slash pay

(NewsNation) — Some workers in Kentucky may be poorer — and hungrier — at their jobs soon if a new bill passes the state’s House of Representatives.

The legislation, House Bill 500, would allow employers to stop offering their workers “reasonable” lunch and rest breaks, mandatory under current Kentucky law, and end the requirement that employees who work seven days in a row receive overtime pay.

According to the Kentucky Lantern, the bill also “(prevents) employers from being punished for not paying minimum wage or overtime pay when an employee is traveling to and from a workplace.”

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The bill’s sponsor, GOP state Rep. Phillip Pratt, said he introduced the legislation so that employers no longer have to deal with differences between state and federal law regarding lunch and rest breaks. Currently, federal law does not require employees to receive the breaks.

Opponents of the law argue that the bill would eliminate necessary worker protections.

“Repealing these guardrails will make work more dangerous by depriving workers of time and for food and rest, incentivizing them to travel too quickly to get to their job sites and discouraging them from taking proper precautions at the beginning of the shift,” Dustin Pugel, policy director at the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, told the Lantern.

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The bill passed a Republican-led House committee Wednesday in a party-line vote and now moves to a vote by the full chamber.

Kentucky has been in the spotlight recently for other pieces of legislation scaling back worker protections, including one bill passed by the House removing working hour restrictions for 16- and 17-year-olds, which Pratt said would get children “off the couch [and] quit playing Nintendo games.”

It is also the state where, in May 2023, U.S. Department of Labor investigators discovered two 10-year-old workers operating dangerous cooking equipment while working late shifts at a McDonald’s.

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