Can My Employer Make Me Buy My Uniforms?

Written by jill stimson
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Can My Employer Make Me Buy My Uniforms?
Some employers may require employees to purchase safety uniforms and equipment to comply with OSHA. (construction worker in uniform at work image by dinostock from Fotolia.com)

The Department of Labor is responsible for administering the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The act provides the minimum wage and hour requirements for covered employers. Additionally, each state may implement its own prohibitions against mandatory uniform purchases. According to the United States Department of Labor, employers who require their employees to purchase mandatory work uniforms may be violating federal labour laws.

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Fair Labor Standards Act

Employers must comply with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act if they engage in interstate commerce and sell oat least £325,000 of goods or services used in commerce. The act also covers hospitals, schools, federal and local governments, regardless of their sales' volumes. Employers who must comply with the act may not require their employees to purchase uniforms if purchasing them would violate minimum wage laws. Employers must also follow their state's labour regulations. If that state does not provide additional protections, then employers who are obligated to follow the act must comply with the federal minimum wage laws.

Minimum Wage

Effective as of July 24, 2009, the federal minimum wage is £4.70. Some states have higher minimum wage requirements or require employers normally uncovered by the federal labour regulations to pay their employees a mandatory minimum hourly wage. Federal labour laws also exempt some classes of employees from the minimum wage and overtime requirements. Employers of seasonal amusement establishments, some administrative and professional employees and casual babysitters are exempt from the wage and hour laws. The federal labour laws also exempt other classifications of employees, including motion picture theatre employees. Employers who hire non-exempt employees must comply with the federal wage and hour laws and pay their employees at least £4.70 per hour. Employers cannot deduct the costs of uniforms from an employee's wages as credit toward the minimum wage requirements. Thus, employers cannot require employees to reimburse them for the costs of uniforms to help them meet their minimum wage obligations.

Uniform Deductions

Employers may require employees to wear uniforms and purchase those uniforms if doing so would not violate the federal or state minimum wage laws. Employers may deduct the costs of uniforms if they pay at least minimum wage. For example, employers who pay £4.70 hourly to their non-exempt employees cannot deduct the cost of the uniform from their hourly wages. However, employers who pay £6.60 per hour can deduct the costs of the uniforms if the uniforms are less than £1.90. Additionally, federal laws allow employers to prorate the costs over pay periods if doing so would not reduce an employee's hourly compensation below minimum wage.

Overtime Compensation

Under the federal labour laws, employers must pay their non-exempt employees overtime compensation for all work hours exceeding a 40-hour week. Employers must pay their employees overtime compensation of at least 1.5 times their normal hourly rate, and the normal hourly rate must meet minimum wage requirements. Employers may not deduct the costs of uniforms from an employee's paycheck or require reimbursement for costs if doing so would be in violation of the federal overtime laws.

Considerations

Since employment laws can frequently change, you should not use this information as a substitute for legal advice. Seek advice through an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction.

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