Can My Employer Make Me Buy My Uniforms?

If you can choose the type of uniform you wear, you might have to pay for it.

If you can choose the type of uniform you wear, you might have to pay for it.

If you work in a restaurant, health care setting or other companies with a dress code, you might be required to wear a uniform. In some cases, you might be limited to wearing an outfit with the company logo on it; in others, you can wear what you want as long as it fits into a certain category, such as scrubs. Your employer can make you wear a uniform, but in many states, he can't make you pay for it.

Type of Uniform

In some states, if you can choose your own uniform within a certain category, such as scrubs -- picking out scrubs with flower or cartoon prints, or whatever else strikes your fancy -- your employer doesn't have to pay for them. So the choice of whether to pick up plain-colored shirts and pants at a big box store or to deck yourself out in your favorite designer scrubs is up to you -- and your pocketbook. If your uniform is generic, like a white shirt and black pants, most states don't require employers to pay for them, either. The State of Washington takes color even further, stating that employers don't have to reimburse for street clothing of common colors, which include blue, tan and white tops and black, blue, gray and tan bottoms, but do need to reimburse employee for clothing of any other required color.

Uniforms with Logos

If you have to wear a uniform with your company's logo to work, you aren't likely to wear it on your days off or out to dinner. Because a uniform with a logo generally isn't for everyday wear, employers in many states, among them California, must reimburse employees for them. Some employees prefer that you not wear your logo'd shirt anywhere but to work. In some states, employers furnish the shirts for you and might even relieve you of the burden of washing them.

Uniform Deductions

In some states, your employer can deduct the cost of furnished uniforms from your salary or, as in Colorado, require a deposit of up to half the cost of the uniform to be held as a deposit, which is returned when you return the uniform. One exception in many states, such as North Carolina, is that the employer can't deduct money for uniforms if the deduction would drop your salary for the week below minimum wage, which also requires that you voluntarily sign an authorization for deduction before your company can deduct money from your paycheck for uniforms.

Uniform Allowances

Some companies give a uniform allowance and let you spend it as you please, as long as you come to work complying with the dress code. If you want to buy designer scrubs modeled after those worn on popular TV medical shows, you can use up your whole allowance on one top. If you'd rather buy one generic uniform and wash it every day, that's also up to you.

Taking Tax Deductions

If your company doesn't give you a uniform allowance or supply uniforms but requires you to purchase them, you can deduct the cost of work clothing that can't be worn anywhere but work from your income taxes. Save your receipts and deduct the costs under miscellaneous itemized deductions" on the Schedule A of your tax form. Your deductions can't exceed 2 percent of your income.

 

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

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