California Labor &
Employment Law Blog

Jun. 9 2005

Employee Uniforms

Topics: Employee Hiring, Discipline & Termination

Question: May I require my employees to wear a particular uniform?

Answer: California law allows employers to require employees to wear particular types of clothing or uniforms to work. If an employer requires non-exempt employees to wear a uniform, the employer must pay for and maintain it for the employee. What constitutes a "uniform" is not always clear.

According to the California Labor Commissioner, the term "uniform" includes any apparel and/or accessories of distinctive design or color. An employer may prescribe the weight, color, quality, texture, style, form, and make of a "uniform" required to be worn by employees. When an employer simply requires employees to wear "basic wardrobe items which are usual and generally usable in the occupation," the clothing is not a uniform. For example, specifying that employees wear white shirts, dark pants, and black shoes and belts, all of unspecified design, does not constitute a "uniform." The employer is not required to pay for that clothing or its maintenance. If the required clothing can double as street clothes, it is probably not a "uniform."

Some safety equipment or protective apparel must be worn by employees as a matter of law. Proper safety equipment such as goggles, gloves or other accessories or apparel must always be provided by the employer if they are required by a regulation of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board.

How is maintenance of a uniform handled?

In addition to the cost of the uniform, the employer must provide non-exempt employees with reasonable maintenance of the uniforms. The employer can either maintain the uniform itself, or pay the employee a weekly maintenance allowance of an hour's pay at minimum wage, provided that an hour's pay is a reasonable estimate of the time necessary to maintain uniform properly. It is reasonable to require employees to maintain uniforms requiring minimal care, such as washing and tumble drying, without reimbursement; however, special care, such as ironing, dry cleaning or separate laundering because of heavy soiling or special color, must be reimbursed to non-exempt employees. An employer may never impose a financial burden on employees, with respect to purchasing or maintaining clothing, which would reduce the employees' wage rate below the minimum wage.

About CDF

For over 20 years, CDF has distinguished itself as one of the top employment, labor and immigration firms in California, representing employers in single-plaintiff and class action lawsuits and advising employers on related legal compliance and risk avoidance. We cover the state, with five locations from Sacramento to San Diego.

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About the Editor

Robin Largent has a regular presence in California state and federal courts and has been lead defense counsel and appellate counsel for large and small California employers in litigation (and arbitration) ranging from individual discrimination and harassment claims to complex wage and hour representative and class actions. She also leads the firm’s appellate practice, having substantial experience and success handling appeals, writ petitions, and amicus briefs in both state and federal court on issues such as class certification (particularly in the wage and hour arena), manageability and due process concerns associated with class action trials, exempt/non-exempt misclassification issues, meal and rest break compliance, trade secret/unfair competition matters, and the scope of federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act.
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