WHEN IMAGE IS THE THING « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


Required Uniforms are Employer’s Responsibility

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, Dress to Impress (July, 2011).

Unless the clothing is commonly worn within a particular occupation and can be worn from one job to another within a specific industry (for example, a nurse’s white uniform or a food server’s black-and-white uniform), the employer is responsible for providing the uniform even if it is comprised of clothing or accessories that can be worn off the job, such as a tropical shirt and khaki pants.

A required uniform or company’s dress standards may not be discriminatory in any way. For example, Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) lost a lawsuit for religious discrimination over its unwillingness to accommodate, and consequent refusal to hire, a Muslim woman who wore a head scarf that violated its uniform policy for employees. See, Accommodating Religious Practices (June 2015) and Workplace Discrimination.

Employers may instruct employees to maintain their issued uniforms which require minimal time for their care, such as only machine washing and drying. If a uniform requires more complex care – for example, ironing, dry cleaning, special laundering or repairs – the employer must provide either maintenance or a maintenance allowance for the care.

California law allows employers to require deposits as security for return of uniforms, but there are strict rules and it is not generally advisable. See, Industrial Welfare Commission Orders (IWC Orders), Section 9. An employer may never take pay deductions for normal wear and tear. See, Wage Deductions (August 2016). Under the IWC Orders, an employer may deduct from the last pay check for a uniform that is not returned – one of the few permitted final pay deductions.

If an employer requires workplace uniforms, it should have a good workplace policy addressing all aspects of issuing, maintaining, and returning uniforms upon termination of employment.

For further information, please contact Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Helena Kobrin

August 22, 2018