Massachusetts Employers Cannot Charge Employees For Uniforms

Many employers in Massachusetts require their employees to wear uniforms. While this is a legal practice, it is unlawful for employers to charge employees for these uniforms.

In January 2015, the Department of Labor Standards updated its wage and hour regulations. The new regulations, now located at 454 CMR 27.05(4), prohibit employers from passing on the costs of uniforms to employees:

(4) Uniforms. For employers requiring uniforms, the following shall apply:

(c) An employee or prospective employee who is required to purchase or rent a uniform shall be reimbursed for the actual purchase or rental cost of the uniform.

The old regulations left the issue ambiguous. However, even prior to the enactment of the new uniform regulations, Courts have interpreted the Wage Act to prohibit uniform and other deductions from wages. See, e.g., Martins v. 3PD, Inc., No. CIV.A. 11-11313-DPW, 2014 WL 1271761, at *5 (D. Mass. Mar. 27, 2014) (“[T]he SJC has made clear that any attempt by an employer to shift the ordinary costs of doing business to its employees must be met with skepticism and carefully scrutinized,” concluding that employer’s deductions for “uniform fees” were recoverable under the Wage Act because the deductions impermissibly “shifted the ordinary cost of doing business to [the] employees”)

With the amendment of the regulations, Massachusetts law now is crystal clear in barring employers from passing on the expense of uniforms to employees. Employees who are required to pay for uniforms may recover triple damages in a lawsuit, which, in many cases, may be brought as a class action.

If your employer requires you to pay for your uniforms – or does not reimburse you for the expense of purchasing a uniform – call us at the number above or email us at info@masswagelaw.com for a free consultation.