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Employer Must Pay for Work-Required Uniforms

Employee uniforms often contribute to creating a vital image for a business. Most people recognize an employee working in a particular chain super store by their red shirt and khaki pants, or a manager at a well-known food market by a button-up Hawaiian shirt. A uniform can become a hallmark of a company just as much as a logo or slogan.

Under California Labor Code section 452, employers may require workers to wear uniforms of a specified color, quality, texture, style and form so long as the employer provides and maintains them. See, Mandatory Employee Uniforms (July, 2011).

Even if the uniform is comprised of clothing or accessories that can be worn off the job, such as tropical shirts or a plain blue polo shirt and khaki pants, the employer may still be responsible for providing such a uniform unless the clothing is commonly worn in the certain occupation and can be worn from one job to another within a specific industry (for example, a nurse’s white uniform or a black-and-white uniform for a food server).

Employers may instruct employees to maintain their issued uniforms as long as only minimal time is required for the care, such as uniforms made of material which requires only machine washing and tumble or drip drying. For uniforms requiring ironing, dry cleaning, special laundering or repairs, employers must provide maintenance or a maintenance allowance for the care.

Although California law allows employers to require deposits as security for return of uniforms, the rules are strict and generally inadvisable. See, Industrial Welfare Commission Orders, Section 9. No pay deductions are ever allowed for normal wear and tear. See, Wage Deductions (August, 2016).

Employers that require employees to wear a uniform need a good workplace policy which covers all aspects of issuing, maintaining, and returning uniforms upon termination of employment.

For more information, please contact one of our attorneys Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Cindy Bamforth

November 23, 2016