Wearing a uniform is sometimes an important aspect of an employee’s job. It identifies them as being a member of your service team, and it helps to promote your restaurant’s brand and enhance your reputation. Who is responsible for the cost of purchasing a uniform, and what are the requirements in terms of paying for them?

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, uniforms are not to be included as wages. As such, you cannot take credit for providing uniforms in meeting your obligations toward paying your workers minimum wage or overtime.

When it comes to employee uniforms, the FLSA does not require that employees wear uniforms. Yet if wearing a uniform is required by some other law, the nature of a business, or by you as the employer, the cost and maintenance of the uniform is considered to be a business expense borne by you, the employer. If you insist that your employees bear the cost of their uniforms, it may not reduce any employee’s wage below the minimum wage for your state and/or county. Nor may that cost cut into an employee’s overtime compensation as mandated by the FLSA.

New York State Minimum Wage

NYC Employers of 11 or more NYC Employers of 10 or less Workers employed in Nassau, Suffolk or Westchester Workers in the remainder of New York State (“upstate”).
$13.00 $12.00 $11.00 $10.40

Click here for to view minimum wage rates for all states

Here’s an example: If an employee who is subject to the statutory minimum wage of $13.00 per hour is paid an hourly wage of $13.00, you, the employer, may not make any deduction from the employee’s wages for the cost of the uniform, nor can you require that the employee purchase the uniform on his/her own. However, if the employee were paid $13.50 per hour and worked 30 hours in the workweek, the maximum amount that you, the employer, can legally deduct from the employee’s wages would be $15.00 ($.50 X 30 hours).

You, as the employer, can prorate deductions for the cost of the employees’ uniforms over a period of paydays — provided the prorated deductions do not reduce the employees’ wages below the required minimum wage or overtime pay in any workweek.

In short, uniforms can go a long way toward benefitting your place of business, and it’s you as the owner who is ultimately responsible for bearing the cost or making sure that it does not place an undue burden on your employees if they are asked to provide their own uniforms.

Have any questions? Contact Accu Data Workforce Solutions. We’ve been working with restaurants for over 30 years and can help with minimum wage and overtime issues or any questions you may have about employee compensation.