The Fair Labor Standards Act doesn’t define “uniform,” but the Department of Labor has noted that an employee that is wearing ordinary, basic street clothing is not wearing a uniform. When an employee is required by their employer to wear a specific type or style of clothing, however, they are wearing a uniform. When a uniform is required by law, the employer, or the nature of the job, the employer must decide whether it wants to incur the cost of the uniform or require the employee to pay the costs associated with obtaining and maintaining the uniform. If the employer elects to incur the cost of the uniform, that cost will become a business expense, and the employer must either pay for the uniform directly or reimburse the employee for any out-of-pocket cost of the uniform.
Deductions for uniforms
In short, under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) if an employer requires its employees to pay for uniforms, the employer can pass on the cost of the uniform to the employee so long as the uniform deductions do not reduce the employee’s wages to below the minimum wage or would reduce an employee’s overtime pay. Put differently, the financial burden of mandatory uniforms should not fall on employees if it takes their wages below minimum wage. For example, the Walt Disney Co. recently agreed to pay $3.8 million in back wages for this type of FLSA violation. Specifically, the DOL determined that Disney’s deductions for company uniforms brought employees’ wages below the federal minimum wage.
Maintenance of uniforms
Likewise, the maintenance of any uniform must be considered as well. Employers are not required to reimburse or incur the costs of uniform maintenance if the uniform is made of non-wash-and-wear materials, may be routinely washed and dried with other personal garments and don’t require ironing or any other special treatment such as dry-cleaning, daily washing, or commercial laundering. But if, however, the uniform requires maintenance beyond that which has been listed, employers must reimburse their employee if the cost of maintenance reduces the employee’s wages to below the minimum wage.