Employees and employers are often confused about the allocation of the costs of uniforms. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides answers to many of their questions. Some of the most frequently asked are:
When is an employer required to provide an employee with a uniform?
There is no requirement under the FLSA that employees wear uniforms. However, if a uniform is required by a different law, the employer, or simply by the nature of the business itself, the cost of the uniform is deemed to be a business expense of the employer. The employer may reduce the employee’s wages according, so long as it doesn’t reduce the wage below the minimum wage or cut into any overtime compensation required by the Act.
May an employee be required to purchase a uniform as a condition of employment?
While the employer may require an employee to purchase a uniform as a condition of employment, the cost must be reimbursed to the extent that it cuts into the minimum wage or overtime compensation required by the Act. If there is need for a reimbursement it must occur no later than the next business day.
If an employer furnishes an employee with a required uniform, may the employer deduct the actual cost of the uniform from the employee’s next paycheck?
The employer can deduct the actual cost of the uniform from the employee’s next paycheck so long as it does not reduce the wages paid below the minimum wage or overtime compensation required by the Act.
May an employer prorate deductions for uniform costs over a period of paydays?
Yes, so long as the employee is being paid in excess of the minimum wage and the reduction does not take the pay below the required minimum wage or overtime compensation in any given workweek.
If an employee is required to purchase a uniform and the cost cuts into the minimum wage or required overtime compensation, can the employer reimburse the employee over a period of time?
No, if reimbursement cuts into an employee’s minimum wage or required overtime compensation during a given week, it must be paid the next business day. Reimbursement may not be spread over the life of the uniform. However, if the employee is being paid above the minimum wage, the employer may deduct an hourly amount to recover uniform costs, so long as the wage remains at or above the minimum.
When are items of clothing considered a uniform?
While there are certain guidelines, the determination of what is considered a uniform is made on a case-by-case basis. If an employer simply requires a general type of clothing to be worn while working, and allows a certain degree of variation, the clothing would not be considered a uniform. This would be the case if an employer required employees to wear the same color scheme, but the items themselves remain within a range of basic street clothing. However, if the clothing is of a particular type or specifically associated with the employer, for example by use of a logo, then the clothing would be considered a uniform.