Do I have to pay for a uniform bearing the company logo?

By , J.D., UC Berkeley School of Law

Question: I have worked for a large warehouse store for several years. Up until a few weeks ago, we had a dress code of khaki pants and blue polo shirts, all of which we had to pay for. We also have to wear security badges with our name and the company's logo; the company gives us these. But the company recently decided to require uniforms instead. The pants are the same, but now the polo shirts have the company's logo on the front and the back. Can the company still make us pay for these? It's not like I'm going to wear this shirt anywhere but at work.

Answer: The rules depend on your state's laws. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn't require employers to pay for uniforms, even if the uniforms are emblazoned left, right, and center with company logos and advertising. The only federal rule on uniforms is that the employer cannot deduct the cost of providing or maintaining (that is, cleaning and pressing) uniforms from your paycheck if doing so would bring your pay below the minimum hourly wage.

For example, if you work a 40-hour week and you earn $8 an hour, your employer could not deduct more than $30 in a single week for uniform costs. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour, so deducting more than $30 would reduce your hourly rate to below the minimum wage.

State laws often provide additional wage and hour rights, however. In the case of uniforms, some states follow the federal rules. But other states prohibit employers from charging employees for uniforms that bear the company brand or are otherwise distinctive and intended to identify the employee with the company. If you work in one of these states, your employer will likely have to pay for your new uniform shirt. You could still be required to supply the basic khakis, however.

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