Can employers charge workers for their uniforms?

Wearing a uniform to work makes an employee easily identifiable to customers and others who may need to recognize them. For example, nurses, police officers and maintenance workers wear uniforms so that people can locate them quickly. Many Tennessee businesses require their workers to wear some kind of uniform that identifies them as part of the staff, whether it is a polo shirt with a company logo or an apron in the color of the business trademark. However, some employees may wonder if their bosses can charge them the cost of their uniforms.

New employees may be surprised when their first paycheck arrives and they see a deduction for the cost of their uniforms. In some cases, this deduction is allowed by law, but the Fair Labor Standards Act offers clear guidelines. Uniforms that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires for certain industries must be purchased at the employer's expense. This may include any personal protection equipment, such as helmets, vests, boots, gloves or protective clothing. An employer may not deduct these costs from a worker's pay.

If an employee requires workers to wear uniforms that are not OSHA regulated, the employer may deduct the cost from the wages of employees as long as that deduction does not reduce the workers' pay to less than federal minimum wage, which is $7.25. The deduction also may not infringe on the amount of overtime pay an employee is due. Employers who charge for uniforms by reducing a worker's legal minimum wage are in violation of the FLSA.

Workers who are paid by the hour often struggle to make enough to support themselves. Unfair and unlawful deductions from their pay can lead to justifiable wage disputes. For assistance in seeking restitution for illegally withheld wages, many in Tennessee turn to an experienced attorney.

Source: smallbusiness.chron.com, "The Laws on Requiring an Employee to Wear Uniforms", Jill Stimson J.D., Accessed on March 23, 2018

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