A lot of different types of jobs require employees to wear uniforms – security guards, food service employees, custodial staff, and so on. But in Massachusetts, it’s illegal for employers to require their employees to pay for uniforms without reimbursement. It’s also illegal for employers to make their employees to pay out-of-pocket for dry-cleaning services if the uniform requires special treatment.
The Massachusetts Code of Regulations defines a “uniform” as:
All special apparel, including footwear, which is worn by an employee as a condition of employment. It shall be presumed that a uniform worn by an employee of any establishment is worn as a condition of employment if the uniform is of similar design, color, or material, or it forms part of the decorative pattern of the establishment to distinguish a person as an employee of the place of work. Where an employer requires a general type of basic street clothing, permits variation in details of dress, and the employee chooses the specific type and style of clothing, this clothing shall not be considered a uniform.
If a workplace outfit qualifies as a uniform under this definition, the employer is strictly prohibited from requiring its employees to pay a “deposit” for the uniform unless authorized to do so by the Department of Labor Standards. The employer is also prohibited from requiring its employees to “purchase or rent [the] uniform” without reimbursement for the “actual purchase or rental cost of the uniform.” And if the uniform requires “dry-cleaning, commercial laundering, or other special treatment,” the employer must reimburse the employee from the “actual costs of such service.”