Can My Employer Make Me Pay for Uniforms?

An employer may require you to purchase and wear a certain uniform or dress a certain way as a condition of employment. The government does provide certain tax perks for those who are forced to purchase and maintain uniforms as a requirement of specific positions like firefighters, health care and uniformed police officers.

Required Work Attire

An employer has every right to require that you adhere to a certain standard of dress while in the office and attending business functions. This may be thought of as a "uniform" in the context that it is required as a condition of your employment. Some employers, like Umpqua Bank, actually loan employees the money needed to purchase appropriate business work attire. One way or the other you're going to end up paying to dress appropriately while at work.

Business Specific Uniforms

Certain jobs like health care or food service require you to wear a uniform that identifies you as a member of the staff. Your employer has the right to require you to pay for the cost of supplying you with a uniform. Once you pay for the uniform, it is your property and your employer does not have a legal right to force you to return it once your term of employment has ended.

Protective Clothing

Industries that require uniforms that also serve as protective clothing like construction and food service may compel employees to purchase this equipment as a condition of employment. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, an employer can also choose to supply uniform protective clothing like gloves and safety goggles and may deduct the cost of purchase from an employee's paycheck. However, the cost of a uniform may not reduce an employee's hourly wage below the federal minimum wage or cut into any overtime compensation.

Tax Deductions

According to the Internal Revenue Service, if you are required to pay for the purchase and maintenance of your uniforms you may use the associated costs as a miscellaneous tax deduction. This rule applies as long as the uniform is not appropriate for wear outside of work such as a police officer's uniform, medical scrubs or uniforms worn by professional athletes. If you have to wear a certain style shirt for work, that's not sufficient to allow a tax deduction under IRS rules.

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About the Author

Jonathan Lister has been a writer and content marketer since 2003. His latest book publication, "Bullet, a Demos City Novel" is forthcoming from J Taylor Publishing in June 2014. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing and poetics from Naropa University.

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