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What are the limits for employee uniforms?

On Behalf of | Dec 14, 2020 | Employment Law |

As a business owner, you invest a great deal of time and money building your company’s brand. You know that a consistent, memorable brand is easy for your customers to identify and recognize.

What your employees wear to work is one way to support the work you have done in developing your brand. Uniforms can give a cohesive look to your business and help clients recognize your support staff. In roles that are not client-facing, a uniform can also help you ensure your staff’s safety.

Here’s what you should know about the rules regarding employee uniforms and how they could impact your business.

Generally, you can require your employees to wear a uniform, or dress in certain attire, so long as you do not discriminate, and your requirements aren’t illegal.  When considering a dress code for your company, take into consideration the type of workplace and the job duties your employees will be performing to ensure that your uniform requirements do not impede on your employee’s ability to do their job in a safe manner.

Allowable requirements include:

  • Requiring employees to wearing clothing of a certain color;
  • Requiring employees to wear branded clothing with your company logo;
  • Banning inappropriate clothing such as shorts, jeans, tank-tops, baseball hats or sweatpants;
  • Banning clothing that might be unsafe in your company’s environment, such as open-toed shoes or sneakers.

You can also require your employees to maintain a clean, neat and professional appearance. This requirement can trigger a discussion of the treatment of men and women in the workplace as what is considered clean, neat and professional may not be identical for men and women. While there are differing opinions, the courts tend to agree that different genders can have different uniform requirements as long as one does not have a more significant burden than the other. For example, a workplace can require women to wear makeup while men must keep their hair trimmed above the collar.

One thing to be mindful of as you consider your uniform policy, is the cost for the employee to change jobs and adapt to a new environment. For your employees, starting a new job that has extensive uniform requirements can be overwhelming and expensive. In Minnesota, you can deduct up to $50 from employee pay to cover purchased or rented uniforms, but you will have to pay it back when they leave. When an employee leaves (whether voluntarily or involuntarily), their last check must include reimbursement for their uniform expenses.