When you start a new job, you’ll receive a few guidelines outlining what your new role entails. These guidelines can include your schedule, code of conduct, how to track your pay, and—if required—a uniform guideline. However, what often isn’t included is the expectation that you’ll be paying out of pocket for the required uniforms and their upkeep. While in most cases, New York employers in the healthcare hospitality industry are required to pay for their employee's uniforms and provide a uniform maintenance allowance, many employees have been illegally footing the bill.
Uniform Maintenance Allowance and the Fair Labor Standards Act
As broken down by the Fair Labor Standards Act(FLSA), when an employer requires their employees to wear a specific type of clothing, the employer must pay for the uniform and the cost of maintaining the uniform. However, more recently, employers have been skipping out on covering the costs of employee uniforms and their upkeep, leaving their employees to deal with the issue.
What Does the FLSA Require Employers to Do?
The FLSA does not require employees to wear uniforms to work. However, if an employer elects to have their employees wear a uniform or if a uniform is required by law, the responsibility for the cost of the uniform and its upkeep falls on the employer as a business expense. In New York State, those employers are required to pay for uniforms maintenance every week as additional compensation on top of their employee's regular wages.
For example, if an employee is paid roughly $10 an hour and works a 40-hour work week, on top of their $400.00 wages earned, they should also receive additional compensation for the cost and maintenance of their uniform.
Employers can also not delay or withhold repaying employees for the cost and upkeep of their uniforms, and by law, employees must see their allowance on their next pay cycle. While the state requires no set amount received each week, legally, the reimbursement must equal the exact cost the employee paid for a uniform(s) and the required upkeep for each item.
What Constitutes a Required Uniform?
As previously stated, while not every employer is required to have their staff in uniform, when a dress code or uniform is enforced, the determination of whether or not the employer is required to pay for the employee's work clothing comes down to a few classifications. But what exactly are these classifications? When an employer establishes a dress code, they are not required to purchase uniform items for their employees simply because a dress code will guide what they'd like to see their employees in.
This means an employer cannot require their employees to purchase certain types of name-brand clothing from specific retail stores. Instead, employees must be allowed to wear what is considered regular or basic items of clothing that they could wear both inside and outside of work. Items like these include, but are not limited to:
- Black pants
- Black polo shirts
- Black dresses
- Black dress shoes
- White dress shirts
- White sneakers
While on the other hand, when employers do establish a dress code that requires their employees to wear specific items of clothing as a uniform, then either the employer must provide funds for their employees to purchase said items and a way to pay for their maintenance. Those who should most commonly see their uniforms covered under the uniform maintenance allowance work in hospitality and healthcare.
Who Is Exempt From Providing the Uniform Maintenance Allowance?
As we covered, generally, those employers who only enforce a dress code that does not subject their employees to purchase certain brands or articles of clothing that they don't already have in their closet are not subject to providing a maintenance allowance, but there are also a few other exceptions to the rules.
Wash & Wear Uniforms
If a business is able to provide its employees with what is known as a "wash and wear" uniform, that employer is not required to provide their employees with an allowance. In order for the uniform to qualify as a wash and wear, the uniform must not require the following:
- dry cleaning
- daily or weekly ironing
- daily or weekly washing
- special treatment
- must be washable with personal clothing
Employers Who Launder Employee Uniforms
Simply put, if an employer provides laundering services for their employee's uniforms, that employer is also exempt from the rule. However, in order for this to apply, the employer must offer free, frequent, and functional internal laundering service in writing to their employees. If the employer decides not to provide laundering or dry cleaning to their employee uniforms, they must pay their employees a weekly uniform maintenance allowance.
Those employees who choose to launder their uniforms outside of the services provided to them by their employers are not entitled to a uniform maintenance allowance. Other New York State employees who are generally exempt from having an employer provide them with a uniform maintenance allowance are individuals who are working as follows:
- Executive or administrative
- Farm employees
- Government employees
- Outside salespeople
- Taxi drivers
Legally, those employers who require you to wear a uniform to work are required to cover the costs but also the laundering and care of your uniform.
Contact Morgan and Morgan
If you or someone you know has been denied reimbursement for required work uniforms or their maintenance, you may be entitled to legal compensation. For more information regarding your case, you can contact our law firm by completing a free, no-obligation case evaluation form today.