Do Employees Have to Pay for Uniforms?

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Upon starting a job, many employees wonder if they will be required to purchase a uniform out of their own pocket, or whether the uniform, or reimbursement for purchase, will be provided by their employer. The answer to this question varies by the type of uniform required, by state, and by other factors.

Wearing a Uniform

  • While the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) does not require workers to wear uniforms, employers in all states can establish dress codes that require their employees to wear uniforms.

Payment for Uniforms

  • Under the FLSA, uniforms are the responsibility of the employer. What constitutes a uniform, however, is one of two factors that ultimately determine who pays for the clothes that make up the uniform. Generally speaking, if a uniform consists of clothing that could double as “street wear,” then an employee may be required to purchase the articles of clothing that make up the “uniform.” If the uniform includes specialized items, such as protective gear, clothing with the company logo emblazoned on it, etc., then the employer is required to pay for it or reimburse the employee for the cost of purchase.

Exceptions

  • The other determining factor in the question of whether an employee must pay for his uniform is the employee's income. In all states, an employer may not deduct the cost of a required uniform from the employee's wages if the cost would cause the employee's wages to fall below minimum wage.

Laws By State

  • All employers in all states are required to adhere to federal law, but some states have stricter laws than others when it comes to employee uniforms. In California, for example, employers are also required to reimburse employees for any special care expenses, including dry cleaning, related to their uniforms.

Your Rights as an Employee

  • Find out what the specific laws are in your state. This way, you will be well prepared and informed of your rights before starting a job that requires uniforms.

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