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Can my boss deduct the cost of uniforms from my paycheck?

It is understandable that your employer wants to find ways to save money. After all, any waste comes out of its profits. Your boss likely has protocol in place for inventory and may purchase generic office supplies or buy in bulk. Unfortunately, such a frugal manager may also be reluctant to allow you to work beyond your 40 hours because that would mean paying you overtime.

If your employer is known for cutting corners, you may want to look closely at your paycheck, especially if the business requires you to wear a uniform. If your employer has deducted from your paycheck to pay for your uniform, you may want to be sure it has the legal right to do so.

What does the law say?

Employment law does not require you to wear a uniform to work, but your employer may require it. Whether it is a complete outfit, a certain colored shirt with the company logo, or simply an apron or hat, a uniform allows customers and clients to quickly identify those who can assist them and gives the business a professional and polished look. In certain occupations, uniforms can offer added safety to workers in hazardous conditions.

However, what does the law say about payment for uniforms? According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are encouraged to pay for or at least subsidize the expense of work uniforms unless you make substantially more than minimum wage. However, your employer may not deduct the cost of uniforms from your paycheck if this causes your hourly wages to fall below the federal minimum. California and other states have their own laws, many of which require employers to cover the entire cost of uniforms.

What about safety gear?

If the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulates the kind of clothing or personal protection equipment you must wear on the job, your employer may not deduct those costs from your paycheck. Personal protection includes such items as these and others:

  • Reflective vests
  • Goggles
  • Face shields
  • Helmets
  • Steel-toed shoes
  • Gloves

If your uniform is designed to protect you from injury and is mandated by OSHA, your employer must provide this protection free of charge. The government allows your employer to deduct such expenses from his or her taxes. Therefore, if you discover that your employer has subtracted the cost of your uniform or personal protection equipment from your paycheck, you have every right to seek legal counsel to reclaim what you have earned.

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