Can we require workers to pay for their uniforms?

Q. We’d like our retail staff to wear uniforms. Can we charge them for the uniforms? — D.T., Tennessee

A. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), if you require employees to wear uniforms, the cost of the uniform is considered to be the employer’s business expense. You may require employees to buy uniforms as a condition of employment.

But if you require employees to buy uniforms, you can’t deduct the purchase price from their paychecks if it would reduce wages below the minimum wage or cut into overtime pay. Deductions into employees’ wages are permissible only if they don’t cut into the minimum wage or overtime pay.

Clothing is considered a uniform if you prescribe a specific type, style, color or quality. Employer-prescribed ordinary “street clothing” wouldn’t be considered a uniform.

Note: Some states set their own stricter laws on whether employers can charge employees for their uniforms.

BP Handbook D