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Who pays for employees’ uniforms?

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in Human Resources

Q. Must a company pay for the cost of providing and maintaining workers’ uniforms?

A. Under California law, employers that require nonexempt employees to wear specific uniforms as a condition of employment must provide the uniform and pay for any upkeep. The requirement applies without regard to the amount of the worker’s wages.

As an alternative, the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement allows employers to pay each affected employee a weekly maintenance allowance of one hour’s pay at the state minimum-wage rate (currently $7.50 an hour) in lieu of maintaining the uniform. However, employers may only adopt this approach if one hour’s pay is a “realistic” estimate of the time involved in maintaining the uniform.

California law defines “uniform” as including apparel and accessories of distinctive design or color. If the uniform is one that is “generally usable in the employees’ occupation” (such as black and white uniforms of unspecified design worn by a restaurant’s wait staff or a nurse’s white uniform), an employer need not pay for the uniform.

Further, employers may require employees to maintain uniforms made of fabrics that require minimal care (such as those that could be cleaned in a washing machine). However, if cleaning the uniform includes ironing or dry cleaning, the employer must maintain or pay for the maintenance.

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