Who has to pay for employee uniforms?

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Question:

My husband works for a mid-sized California corporation. Today, he was notified that he and his fellow employees will be required to purchase their own uniforms -- with no company reimbursement. Is this legal?

Answer:

Apparently, it isn't enough for some employers to force their workers into a wardrobe of polyester, hairnets and sensible shoes. Now they want those poorly dressed souls to pay for the privilege! Well, your great state of California won't let them get away with it.

Under California law, an employer that requires its employees to wear uniforms is responsible for providing those uniforms -- and maintaining them in good repair. Of course, this means that the uniforms belong to the boss, and the boss can charge the employee a reasonable deposit while the uniform is in the employee's hands. An employee who doesn't return the uniform when asked will find that his employer can legally keep the deposit or deduct the cost of the uniform from the employee's last paycheck. But I don't imagine your husband would insist on keeping his uniform (unless it's really a glamorous ensemble).

Other U.S. states' laws may not offer such broad protection for employees. Contact your state department of labor for more information.

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