Massachusetts law about employee uniforms

Laws, regulations, cases and web sources on employee uniform law.

See also: Massachusetts law about employment and work leave

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Table of Contents

Federal laws

29 U.S.C. § 203(o) Fair labor standards act: hours worked
Employees do not need to be paid for time spent changing clothes at the beginning or end of the day, if that has been agreed to under a collective bargaining agreement.

Massachusetts regulations

454 CMR 27.02 and 27.05(4) 
Defines "uniform," explains when an employer must reimburse the employee for care of the uniform, and forbids the requirement of a uniform deposit without express permission. Also, differs from Federal law1 in requiring employers to pay for uniforms. While Federal law allows for deductions for uniforms as long as the employee's wages don't fall below minimum wage, Massachusetts law does not.

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.

Agency

Mass. Department of Labor Standards, Minimum Wage Program
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 500
Boston, MA 02114
Phone: (617) 626-6952

"The minimum fair wage laws and regulations address basic minimum wage and overtime. They also cover pay for tipped employees, reporting pay, on-duty or on-call time, travel time, and expenses. Deductions for lodging, meals, uniforms, and required wage records are also covered."

How to file a minimum wage complaint with the Mass. Attorney General's Office.

Selected cases

Camara v. Attorney General, 458 Mass. 756 (2011) 
Because this decision limits the ability of employers to deduct from wages owed and is not limited to situations where the deduction would reduce the employee's wages below minimum wage, the Department of Labor Standards rescinded its opinion letter on deductions from wages for uniform maintenance.

Sandifer v. United States Steel Corp., 571 U.S. 220, 134 S.Ct.870 (2014)
Clarifies what "changing clothes" means in 29 USC § 203(o) and whether that time must be paid. "If an employee devotes the vast majority of the time in question to putting on and off equipment or other non-clothes items (perhaps a diver's suit and tank) the entire period would not qualify as 'time spent in changing clothes' under § 203(o), even if some clothes items were donned and doffed as well. But if the vast majority of the time is spent in donning and doffing 'clothes' as we have defined that term, the entire period qualifies, and the time spent putting on and off other items need not be subtracted."

Web sources

CDC guidance on laundry in health care facilities 
Includes uniforms. "[I]f health-care facilities require the use of uniforms, they should either make provisions to launder them or provide information to the employee regarding infection control and cleaning guidelines for the item based on the tasks being performed at the facility. Health-care facilities should address the need to provide this service and should determine the frequency for laundering these items."

Religious garb and grooming in the workplace: Rights and responsibilities, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Exception to uniform policy as a religious accommodation. "This document addresses how Title VII applies to the religious dress and grooming practices of applicants and employees, including when and employer has a legal responsibility to make exceptions to its usual rules or preferences."

Uniform deposit waiver policy, Mass. Dept. of Labor, Division of Occupational Safety.
Explains the "standards that will be applied by the Director in determining whether a request by an employer for a Uniform Deposit Waiver will be granted." See also, Uniform deposit waiver application.

Contact for Massachusetts law about employee uniforms

1 For federal rules, see 29 CFR 531.3(d)(2)(iii) , 29 USC §§ 201-219, and related case law. Federal law allows employers to deduct the cost of a uniform from an employee's pay, as long as the employee's wages after the deduction don't fall below the minimum wage.

Last updated: September 11, 2023

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