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Charging employees for uniforms

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in Compensation and Benefits,Employment Law,Human Resources

Q. We would like to require employees to pay for their work uniforms. Can we do this?

You can require employees to bear the cost of uniforms as long as the expense does not reduce the employee’s wage below the minimum wage in Minnesota (currently $6.15/hour for most employers and set to increase to $6.55/hour in July 2008). The expense must also not cut into overtime compensation.

For example, if an employee is paid an hourly rate of $7 and works 40 hours, the employer could deduct up to $34 that workweek for uniform expenses (i.e., the amount over and above the pay for 40 hours at $6.15/hour). Employers may prorate deductions for uniform costs over several pay periods as long as employees are paid at least the minimum wage, and owed overtime compensation is not reduced.

Be careful if the uniforms include items that are required for the employees’ personal safety. OSHA rules prohibit employers from requiring employees to pay for required personal protective equipment. If the uniform includes steel-toe boots, for example, employers may not require employees to bear this expense unless employees are permitted to wear the items away from the job site.

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