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Can your employer force you to wear a uniform?

If you start working for a new employer, one of the things you might discuss is the dress code. What should you wear on the job? Is there a uniform that you need to wear?

There are advantages to having uniforms. They stand out, look professional and make it easier to recognize employees. Of course, there can be issues with them as well, especially if there are gender-specific items of clothing included.

Employers and employees should be aware that the law allows uniform policies in the workplace. Employers aren’t required to have uniforms for their business, but they have an opportunity to choose one if they wish. Employers are also allowed to deduct the cost of the uniform as a business expense. Employees may also be asked to pay for their own uniforms.

Is there a different between uniforms and safety equipment?

Yes and no. Safety equipment in and of itself may not be a uniform, but it might be a part of your uniform. At the same time, there are different laws applying to uniforms and safety equipment. For example, while an employer can ask you to pay for your uniform, they have to supply you with safety equipment. Employers are responsible for paying for most kinds of safety equipment, and they should not deduct the cost from employees’ paychecks. Some of the safety attire that employers need to pay for include:

  • Non-prescription eye protection
  • prescription lenses for full-face respirators
  • Hard hats
  • Welding PPE
  • Firefighting PPE
  • Hearing protection
  • Rubber boots with steel toes

They don’t need to cover PPE in some circumstances, such as if that attire includes non-specialty safety-toe shoes or everyday clothing items.

Are any uniforms illegal?

It’s possible that a uniform may be illegal. For example, a uniform requiring a specific hair style might be illegal if it impacts people of color or is discriminatory in nature.

Uniforms can be a hot topic in the workplace. If you have questions or feel your uniform is discriminatory, you may want to look into your legal rights and speak with your company’s human resources department as well.