Q. Can our company require an independent contractor to wear a specific uniform? And can we stipulate that the contractor buy the uniform through us? —A.C., California
A. By itself, a uniform requirement won't automatically create an employment relationship with an independent contractor. Depending on the industry you're in, you may be able to cite safety or health reasons for the uniform. That said, if an independent contractor were to challenge his status, he'd likely point to your uniform rule as an example of your company's control over him and his work. Remember, the more control you exert over the working relationship, the more likely he'd be deemed an official “employee.”
Finally, check your state law to make sure you can legally require workers to pay for their own uniforms. While federal law says companies can make employees pay for uniforms as long as the cost doesn't bring their pay below minimum wage, many states have “pay-for-uniform” laws that mandate that employers foot the bill. California is one of those states.
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