California law generally prohibits employers from requiring employees to buy uniforms or tools required for performing their jobs. However, there are some exceptions.
Employer Requires Uniforms but Doesn’t Pay for Them
The law: “When uniforms are required by the employer to be worn by the employee as a condition of employment, such uniforms shall be provided and maintained by the employer. The term ‘uniform’ includes wearing apparel and accessories of distinctive design or color.”
What this means: Most employees who have to wear a uniform (or clothing of a distinctive design) must be compensated for them. Plus, the employer has to pay for maintaining (i.e., washing) the uniform.
Exceptions: Nurses usually do not have to be reimbursed for uniform purchases. The same goes for persons who work in occupations that generally require people to wear white uniforms. But any uniform (regardless of color) which is required to be worn by an individual in an occupation that would not generally require that particular uniform, must be paid for by the employer.
Remedy: The employee can bring an action under California Labor Code section 2802 for the reimbursement of the illegal uniform purchases and/or the cost of laundering the uniforms.
If you want to know whether your employer needs to reimburse you for a uniform purchase, contact Strauss & Strauss, APC.
Employer Requires Tool Purchases but Doesn’t Pay for Them
The law: “When tools or equipment are required by the employer or are necessary to the performance of a job, such tools and equipment shall be provided and maintained by the employer, except that an employee whose wages are at least two times the minimum wage provided herein may be required to provide and maintain hand tools and equipment customarily required by the trade or craft. This subsection… shall not apply to apprentices regularly indentured under the State Division of Apprenticeship Standards.”
What this means: Most California employees who earn less than twice the applicable California minimum wage and who have to buy anything other than “hand tools” to do their job must be reimbursed for the tools.
Exceptions: Registered apprentices don’t have to be reimbursed for tool purchases. Employers also don’t have to reimburse employees for “hand tool” purchases (hammers or screwdrivers), but they must reimburse employees for all other tool purchases if the employee is paid less than twice minimum wage.
Remedy: The failure of an employee to receive two times the minimum wage while still obligated to purchase the tool would result in the employer being liable for the cost of the tool or equipment under California Labor Code section 2802.
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