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While an employer has the right to make you wear a uniform, paying for the uniform is another matter. State and federal laws differ on what is allowed regarding wage deductions to cover the cost of uniforms.

If you are required to wear a uniform at your job and have been asked to cover the cost, it is time you speak with an employment labor lawyer.

Federal Law on Uniform Costs

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), an employee is not required to wear a uniform. However, a uniform may be required by the employer, the business, or some other law. In this case, any expense associated with the uniform would be treated as a business expense.

Under the FLSA, though an employer can require an employee to bear the cost of the uniform, it cannot reduce an employee’s wage below the minimum federal wage ($7.25 per hour) or reduce the employee’s overtime pay. 

The employer may need to spread wage reductions out (prorate deductions) in order for the employee’s weekly paycheck to not dip below minimum wage or for overtime compensation to be reduced.

Federal law does require that employers pay for an employee’s personal protective equipment (PPE). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employers protect employees from workplace hazards. Under the OSHA uniform law, employers must provide and pay for PPE when it is worn to comply with OSHA standards. 

PPE may include any of the following:

  • Metatarsal foot protection
  • Rubber boots with steel toes
  • Eye protection
  • Goggles and face shields
  • Hard hats
  • Hearing protection
  • Welding PPE
  • Firefighting PPE (helmets, gloves, boots, proximity suits, full gear)

Uniform Deductions in California

California law makes a distinction between uniforms and required clothing. A uniform includes wearing apparel and accessories of distinct design and color, while required clothing would be a certain type of attire that can be commonly found in a person’s closet.

Under California Labor Code 2802, an employer must reimburse the employee for “all necessary expenditures and losses.” If an employer requires an employee to wear a uniform, the employer must pay for the cost of the uniform. If an employee did purchase the uniform, the employer must reimburse the employee.

The same does not hold true for required clothing. Under California law, an employer is not required to reimburse an employee for required clothing. 

What Other Reimbursements Are Required Under California law?

Under California law, an employer must reimburse employees for any expenses that are reasonable and necessary for an employee to adequately do their job.

Such expenses may include:

  • Mileage reimbursement
  • Travel expenses
  • Training or education costs
  • Conference fees
  • Use of cell phone for business purposes

An Employment Law Attorney Defending Your Rights

A uniform can make an employee look professional and put together. Not all employers know California law, and they may make you pay for your uniform, not knowing that they need to reimburse you. It is crucial that you know the law and your rights. 

If you have had to bear the cost of a uniform or have had deductions taken from your paycheck that caused your pay to be less than minimum wage, we can help. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation. 

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by attorney David Mara who has more than 20 years of legal experience in employment law.

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