A new bill proposed in Kentucky could remove the right for workers to take a lunch break, along with other workers protections.

House Bill 500 would repeal current state legislation that requires employers to allow workers a lunch break for every three to five hours of work completed. The bill, if it becomes law, would require employers to pay workers while they are eating instead of giving them a break.

Proponents say the bill would bring the state closer to federal law, but critics argue it could decrease workplace safety and act as a hurdle for Kentuckians trying to get jobs.

Other changes the bill proposes include removing overtime pay, which is one and a half times the normal pay rate, and preventing employers from being punished for not paying minimum wage and overtime pay when employees travel to and from their place of work.

The bill garnered near-universal approval from Republican members in a House committee held Wednesday. Democrats unanimously voted against the bill, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

Republican Representative Phillip Pratt, who sponsored the bill, said it would bring the state in line with federal law. “You have federal law, which says you must do this; then you have state law, which says you’ve got to do that. To run afoul of them becomes very easy,” he added, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Federal law does not require employers to offer lunch or rest breaks.

Worker on lunch break
A stock image of a worker taking a break. House Bill 500 would repeal the right to a lunch break after a certain number of hours.


Pratt outlined that employers would still be welcome to provide lunch breaks and rest periods at their discretion, and he said his landscaping business would continue to do so. He rejected accusations from House Democratic Whip Rachel Roberts that he had filed the bill out of self-interest.

Newsweek has contacted Pratt via email for comment outside of normal working hours.

Those firmly against the bill have said it could jeopardize workplace safety and make it harder for Kentuckians to get jobs.

Representative Nima Kulkarni, a Democrat, said: “I think as a whole this bill is not necessary for cost savings, I’m assuming, to a small business owner. These laws were put in place decades ago to protect workers, and the more that we erode worker protections the harder it is for us to get people in those jobs,” the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

Dustin Pugel and Jason Bailey at the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy said: “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 start of shifts.

“And it will take pay away from workers when they are moving between job locations, working excessive weeks, and engaging in necessary tasks at the beginning and end of the work day.”