Can we make employees pay for work uniforms?

Q. Are there any laws that prohibit me from charging my employees for their mandatory work uniforms?

Generally speaking, no law forbids an employer from making employees pay for required work uniforms. However, there are two important exceptions to this general rule: the minimum wage and OSHA.

The added expense for the uniforms cannot reduce the employee’s effective hourly rate below the minimum wage. Currently, Ohio’s minimum wage is $7.30 per hour. For example, if an employee earns $8 per hour, and works a 40-hour week, the employer could charge up to $28 per week for uniforms. Any charge greater than $28 per week would illegally reduce the employee’s hourly rate below $7.30.

Employers must also be careful if the uniforms include items that are required for employees’ personal safety. Recently enacted OSHA rules prohibit employers from requiring employees to pay for required personal protective equipment. Employers must pay for most required safety equipment.

The only exceptions are nonspecialty safety-toe protective footwear (including steel-toe shoes or boots), nonspecialty prescription safety eyewear, logging boots and everyday clothing.