In most cases, employers in the hospitality industry must pay for employee uniforms and provide employees with a uniform maintenance allowance. Uniform maintenance allowances provide New York employees with the money needed to launder and pay for the upkeep of their required uniforms. Employers must pay uniform maintenance compensation every week, in addition to the employee’s regular wages. The amount of required uniform maintenance pay depends on the number of employees in the workplace and the number of hours the employee works each week.
New York City Uniform Maintenance Allowance Attorney
If you have questions about your rights concerning uniform compensation, the skilled employment attorneys at Lipsky Lowe LLP can help. We have extensive experience fighting for the employment rights of our clients. If you work in the hospitality industry, and your employer requires you to wear a uniform, you may be legally entitled to an allowance for uniform maintenance.
Restaurant and Hotel Employers Must Pay for Uniforms and Uniform Maintenance
Generally, when an employer requires employees to wear a specific type of clothing, the employee must pay for the uniform and the cost of maintaining the uniform. However, in some instances, New York employers must pay for the costs of purchasing and maintaining employees’ work clothing. The New York State Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing employee uniform compensation regulations. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act imposes similar requirements as to employer compensation for uniforms and uniform maintenance.
Dress Codes May Constitute Required Uniforms
The determination of whether or not an employer must pay for the employee’s work clothing comes down to whether or not the clothing is considered a uniform. For example, employers who establish a dress code do not need to purchase uniform items for their employees. To qualify for this exception, the employer cannot require employees to obtain certain types of name brand clothing from specific retail stores. Instead, the employer must allow employees to wear basic, regular street clothing that he or she could wear outside of work, such as:
- A white dress shirt
- A pair of black pants
- A black polo shirt
In some instances, employers who establish a dress code are requiring their employees to wear a uniform. If the dress code requires employees to wear clothing with the employee’s logo or advertising on the clothing, the clothing may be a uniform. The practice of providing employees with aprons or name tags stored at the workplace does not constitute requiring a uniform. Under New York Labor Law, a hospitality employer must pay for the purchase and maintenance of all uniforms.
Employers Who Provide Wash and Wear Uniforms May Be Exempt
If a hotel or restaurant employer provides employees with “wash and wear” uniforms, the employer does not need to provide a uniform maintenance allowance. Wash and wear uniforms are uniforms that do not require ironing, daily washing, dry cleaning, or any other special treatment. Employees can easily launder wash and wear uniforms with their other personal clothing.
Employers Who Launder Their Employees Uniforms Are Exempt
Employers that launder employees’ uniforms at the workplace or that pay an outside company to clean employees’ uniforms are exempt from the general rule. Employees who choose to launder their uniforms are not entitled to a uniform maintenance allowance if their employer offers to provide the laundering service.
To avoid paying a uniform maintenance allowance, the employer must offer free, reasonably frequent, and functional internal laundering services. Additionally, the employer must notify their employees of the laundry service in writing to qualify for the exemption. Thus, if an employer does not launder or dry clean employee uniforms, the employer must pay employees a weekly uniform maintenance allowance.
Restaurant or Hotel Employers Must Reimburse Employees for Their Uniforms
Employers in the hospitality industry must reimburse their employees for the cost of their uniforms. Employers cannot delay repaying employees for the cost of their uniform; the employee’s next pay date must pay the reimbursement amount. The uniform reimbursement amount must equal the actual cost that the employee paid for a uniform. If an employer requires an employee to own one uniform for each day of the workweek, the uniform reimbursement must cover five sets of uniforms.
Uniform Maintenance Allowances for Employers Outside of the Hospitality Industry
In some instances, employers outside of the hotel and restaurant industry must pay employees a uniform maintenance allowance. If the cost of the uniform and of maintaining it would reduce the hourly wage below the state minimum wage, the employer must provide a uniform maintenance allowance.
Employers cannot credit the amount of uniform maintenance allowance towards the employee’s hourly wage. Instead, the employer must pay the allowance in addition to the employee’s hourly wage. New York State employers are exempt from providing a uniform maintenance allowance to the following types of employees:
- Outside salespeople
- Taxi drivers
- Employees working in an executive, professional, or administrative capacity
- Farm employees
- Government employees
- Certain additional categories of employees
Uniform Maintenance Allowance and the Fair Labor Standards Act
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to pay for the work clothing of their employees. However, the FLSA does require employers to pay for any equipment or personal clothing necessary for the employer to comply with federal workplace safety regulations. The FLSA recommends, though does not mandate, that employers pay for their employees’ uniforms and then deduct them as a business expense.
Contact Our Experienced Employment Law Attorneys
New York Labor Law requires most employers in the hospitality industry to pay for employee uniforms. If the employer does not launder employee uniforms, it must provide employees with a uniform maintenance allowance.
If your employer refuses to pay for your uniform and does not offer you a uniform maintenance allowance, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact the skilled New York City employment law attorneys at Lipsky Lowe LLP to schedule your free initial consultation.