Your Employer May Be Responsible For The Cost Of Your Workplace Uniform

California law allows employers to require employees to wear particular types of clothing or uniforms to work. If an employer requires non-exempt employees to wear a uniform, the employer must pay for and maintain it for employees. Non-exempt employees are often the rank and file staff who work an hourly wage. The definition of a uniform is not always clear.

The term "uniform" includes any apparel and/or accessories of distinctive design or color. An employer may prescribe the weight, color, quality, texture, style, form, and make of a "uniform" required to be worn by employees. When an employer simply requires employees to wear "basic wardrobe items which are usual and generally usable in the occupation," the clothing is not a uniform. For example, specifying that employees wear white shirts, dark pants, and black shoes and belts, all of unspecified design, does not constitute a "uniform." In large part, this is because an employee can utilize these clothes outside of work, too, and may even already own many required items. The employer is not required to pay for that clothing or its maintenance. In other words, if the required clothing can double as street clothes, it is probably not a "uniform."

Some safety equipment or protective apparel must be worn by employees as a matter of law. Proper safety equipment such as goggles, gloves or other accessories or apparel must always be provided by the employer if they are required by a regulation of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board. In addition to the cost of the uniform, the employer must provide non-exempt employees with reasonable maintenance of the uniforms. The employee can either maintain the uniform itself, or pay the employee a weekly maintenance allowance of an hour’s pay at minimum wage, provided that an hour’s pay is a reasonable estimate of the time necessary to maintain uniform properly. It is reasonable to require employees to maintain uniforms requiring minimal care, such as washing and tumble drying, without reimbursement; however, special care, such as ironing, dry cleaning or separate laundering because of heavy soiling or special color, must be reimbursed to non-exempt employees.

Please contact Chris Taylor, Esq. at (626) 219-6008 for more information.

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