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Can My Employer Deduct Uniform Expenses from My Paycheck and Still Meet Minimum Wage Requirements?

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If you work for minimum wage in Florida, which is currently $8.10 per hour (as of date of this blog), can your employer deduct the cost of a uniform or other required work apparel from your paycheck and still meet minimum wage requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)? And if an employer does deduct such costs from an employee’s paycheck, resulting in the employee earning less than the required minimum wage in a particular pay period, can that employee file a wage violation claim?

It is important to understand how minimum wage requirements work and how the FLSA protects employees. In short, an employer cannot deduct uniform expenses from an employee’s paycheck if such a deduction results in the employee earning below the legally mandated minimum wage. To clarify why this is the case, we will take a closer look at FLSA requirements and then will discuss a similar case that arose recently in Florida.

Fair Labor Standards Act and Minimum Wage Requirements 

Unless you are classified as an exempt employee, the FLSA stipulates that the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. What if you live or work in a state, like Florida, where the minimum, wage is higher than the federal number? The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) clarifies that “in cases where an employee is subject to both the state and federal minimum wage laws, the employee is entitled to the higher of the two minimum wages.” When an employee has been denied minimum wage, the Wage and Hour Division of the DOL can investigate and enforce the federal minimum wage law.

What does minimum wage have to do with uniforms at work? The DOL addresses questions about minimum wage law compliance, uniform requirements, and deductions from employees’ paychecks. In short, the DOL clarifies that the “FLSA does not require that employees wear uniforms,” and that in situations where “the wearing of a uniform is required by some other law, the nature of a business, or by an employer, the cost and maintenance of the uniform is considered to be a business expense of the employer.” In workplaces where the employer requires the employee to cover the cost of a uniform, “it may not reduce the employee’s wage below the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour,” and that cost cannot “cut into overtime compensation” required by the FLSA.

To put that language another way, if an employee earns the federal minimum wage, an employer cannot make any uniform deductions from the employee’s paycheck. If the employee is paid beyond the federal minimum wage, the employer is only permitted to deduct uniform expenses that would not result in an employee being paid an amount below the federal minimum wage. For instance if an employee earns $8.25 per hour and works 40 hours in a workweek, (290/330 the most an employer can deduct from the employee’s weekly paycheck is $40.00 for the uniform ($1.00 beyond the minimum wage X 40 hours = $40.00).

Wage Violations Alleged Against The Walt Disney Co. 

Earlier this year, The Walt Disney Co. agreed to pay back wages of $3.8 million to Florida workers who filed a wage violation claim. Just as we discussed above, more than 16,000 workers at Disney’s Vacation Club Management Corp. and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts alleged that their employer “deducted uniform expenses that caused some workers’ hourly wages to fall below the federal minimum wage.”

This case underscores that employees should always consider filing a claim for such violations because they may be entitled to compensation. You should discuss your concerns with a Florida wage and hour attorney today.

Resource:

dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs16.pdf

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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