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Best Attorney Answers: Can My Boss Make Me Pay For Uniforms?

| Mar 3, 2014 | minimum wage violation, overtime time violation, tipped employee violations |

Wage and Hour Attorney Top Answers: My employer requires a uniform, do I have to pay for it? Do I have to pay to maintain a uniform? Is there a difference between a uniform and a general dress code?

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Employers oftentimes require employees to dress in a certain fashion for work. In the restaurant business, for example, it is not unusual to see servers and wait staff dressed the exact same way. Other employers have a very strict uniform – think police officers or the UPS deliveryman. But, there is a difference between the two sets of attire and how they are treated under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).

The FLSA has explained that wages do not include uniforms or items that primarily benefit the employer. So, an employer cannot use uniform costs to partially meet its obligations to pay minimum wage or overtime. If the employer requires uniforms then the cost and maintenance of the uniform is a business expense.

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If an employer does make the employee pay for the uniform, then the employer can’t reduce the employee’s wages below minimum wage or allow the uniform cost to affect overtime pay. So, if you are only earning $7.25 per hour your employer cannot take money from your wages to cover uniform costs or make your buy the uniform on your own. But, if your were paid $8.25 per hour and worked 35 hours in a week the most that could be taken from your wages would be $35 ($1 x 35 hours).

Our wage and hour attorneys have blogged before about exotic dancers’ status under the FLSA, but didn’t address whether “gentlemen’s club” waitresses or entertainers had to pay for their own uniforms. In a case out of Texas, waitresses at a gentlemen’s club were required to wear black shoes, a black bodysuit, tights, fishnet stockings and a wide belt. The club provided the uniform for a $60 non-refundable deposit. Entertainers had to purchase costumes at their own expense. The court determined the club had to reimburse employees for the costs of buying the uniforms and costumes because employees’ compensation didn’t equal the minimum wage.

In another case out of New Jersey, a restaurant required employees to buy $125-$300 tuxedos. The restaurant argued the tuxes were not required and that employees preferred to wear the elaborate suit. However, the court did not buy that defense and found that the tux was a condition of continued employment. Moreover, buying, maintaining, and replacing the tux reduced some waiters’ and waitresses’ salary below the minimum wage.

What if the employer doesn’t require a uniform but instead has a dress code and makes employees wear dark pants or skirts and dark shoes, or a polo shirt and khakis? The Department of Labor (“DOL”) has explained that when an employer simply requires employees to wear general, basic, street clothing the employer isn’t asking employees to wear a uniform. But, if there is a logo on the clothing or the employer prescribes a specific color, style, and quality then it has crossed the line into uniform territory.

Dressing appropriately for your particular workplace is part of maintaining a professional appearance no matter what your job. And uniforms and dress codes are a generally accepted practice. However, do not let your employer take money out of your pocket to pay for its businesses expenses. If you think your employer is violating your rights under the FLSA contact our wage and hour attorneys.

If you believe that your employer is not paying you all of your wages for all of your lawfully earned overtime compensation at a rate of one and half times your normal wages as requires under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act or your boss is deducting deductions from your paycheck dropping you below minimum wage, contact the attorneys at The Spitz Law Firm today for a free and confidential initial consultation. Or maybe you are being misclassified as an independent contractor. The wage and hour lawyers at The Spitz Law Firm will provide you with the best options for your overtime pay dispute situation. If you even think that you may be entitled to overtime pay that you are not being paid, call (216) 291-4744.

Disclaimer:

The materials available at the top of this overtime, wage and hour web page and at this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “Am I entitled to overtime?”, “Does my job have to pay me for …”, “My paycheck is not right…” or “What do I do if…”, the your best option is to contact an Ohio overtime attorney to obtain advice with respect to FLSA questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at the top of this page or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any individual attorney.