Mandatory Reimbursement For Purchase And Maintenance Of Work Uniforms In New York State

1. Does your employer require you to wear a uniform on the job?

If so, under New York law your employer may be required to pay the cost of your uniform and the cost of your uniform maintenance.

2. Do you work in a RESTAURANT OR HOTEL?

If so, your employer must pay for your uniform.   Your employer must also pay you a uniform maintenance allowance unless you are provided with enough “wash and wear” uniforms.   (See below).

3. Do you work in ANOTHER INDUSTRY?

If so, your employer must in most cases follow the uniform cost and uniform maintenance allowance rules if your uniform cost and maintenance would reduce your hourly wage to below the New York State minimum wage, which is currently $9.00 per hour.

4. What is a required uniform?

  • A required uniform is clothing worn by an employee, at the request of the employer, while performing job-related duties or to comply with State or local law.
  • Clothing that may be worn as part of your ordinary wardrobe is not a required uniform.
  • For example, if your employer requires that you wear black pants and a white shirt to work, that is probably not a required uniform.

5. If I work in a restaurant or hotel (i.e., the HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY), is my employer required to reimburse me for my uniform and uniform maintenance?

Generally, yes.

  • When you purchase a required uniform, you must be reimbursed by your employer for the cost of your uniform on your next pay date.
  • In addition, your employer is required to maintain that uniform, which generally means laundering or dry cleaning the uniform, depending on its materials. If your employer does not maintain your uniform directly, the employer must pay you a weekly uniform maintenance allowance to cover the cost of your maintaining the uniform yourself.
  • Currently, the uniform maintenance allowance in New York State is $11.20 per week for employees who work at least 30 hours per week.
  • The amount of the allowance is lower employees who work fewer hours.

Are there any situations in which an employer in the hospitality (restaurant or hotel) industry does not need to pay for uniform laundering?

Yes.  As applies to hotels and restaurants, there is a limited exception to the uniform maintenance requirement:

  • Your employer can avoid paying you the uniform maintenance allowance if it provides you enough uniforms for the average number of days you work in a week.
  • For example, if you work six days a week and are required to wear a shirt with a company logo each day, you should get six shirts for your use.
  • This exception only applies to “wash and wear” uniforms – that is, uniforms that can be regularly washed and dried with other personal garments, and which do not require ironing, dry cleaning, daily washing, or other special treatment.
  • If your employer does not give you sufficient uniforms to meet this exception, your employer must pay you a uniform maintenance allowance weekly, which is currently $11.20 per week.

6. OUTSIDE of the hospitality industry, what are the rules regarding purchasing and laundering of uniforms?

  • Your employer must pay your uniform cost and your uniform maintenance allowance if the cost of the uniform and its maintenance would reduce your hourly wage to below the state minimum wage of $9.00 per hour.
  • Uniform maintenance allowance is currently $11.20 per week.
  • Uniform maintenance allowances must be paid in addition to your hourly wage, and cannot be credited toward the minimum wage.

7. Are there any types of workers that are exempt from the rules described above?

These rules apply to all employees in New York State except:

  • Government employees;
  • Farm employees;
  • Those working in an executive, administrative, or professional capacity;
  • Taxi drivers;
  • Outside salespeople; and
  • Certain other categories

In addition to the rules under New York State law, federal law (the Fair Labor Standards Act) also imposes some limitations on uniform charges.

Do you have questions about your rights on the job with respect to uniforms?   Our attorneys have deep experience litigating uniform violations.   Call Schlanger Law Group, LLP at (212) 500-6114 for a consultation. 

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