Employee Apparel

Employee Apparel https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/coffee-951948_640.jpg

Employers are not required to compensate their employees for apparel that an employer requires them to wear during working hours UNLESS the required apparel is a uniform.


A uniform is…

Any one of the following:

  • Apparel that is specifically marked with an employer’s logo.
  • Unique apparel representing an historical time period or an ethnic tradition.
  • Formal apparel.
  • Apparel of a distinctive style and quality that, when worn outside of the workplace, clearly identifies the person as an employee of a specific establishment.


Non-uniform wearing apparel is…

Acceptable to ask employees to furnish at their own expense any wearing apparel of a common color that conforms to a general dress code or style:

  • Shirts or blouses of the following colors: white, tan, light tan, dark tan, blue, light blue or dark blue.
  • Pants, skirts or shorts of the following colors: black, tan, light tan, dark tan, blue, light blue, dark blue, light gray, dark gray or gray.
  • Light or dark shoes.
  • Apparel that is a general style, i.e. jeans, slacks, dress pants, dress shirt, T-shirt, polo and shorts would be acceptable employer requirements if they meet definition of any of the above.


Seasonal apparel

An employer is permitted to require an employee to obtain two sets of wearing apparel to accommodate for seasonal changes in weather which necessitate a change in wearing apparel.

EXAMPLE: The employer requires shorts for summer wear and full length trousers for other seasons.


Employee apparel codes must have a two year time frame

If an employer changes the color or colors of apparel required to be worn by any of his or her employees during a two-year period of time, the employer shall furnish or compensate the employees for the apparel. The employer shall be required to furnish or compensate only those employees who are affected by the change. The two-year time period begins on the date the change in wearing apparel goes into effect and ends two years from this date. The beginning and end of the time period applies to all employees regardless of when the employee is hired.

EXAMPLE: If apparel code is established in July 2018, it may not be altered by the employer until June 2020. If the restaurant changes the apparel code in July 2021, the employer is not required to reimburse the employees for the cost of that clothing. If the restaurant changes the apparel code in December 2019, the employer is required to reimburse the employees for the cost of that clothing.

If you have any further questions about this topic or others, see the Department of Labor & Industries’ Help for Small Business page at http://www.lni.wa.gov/Main/SmallBusiness/.


Rev. 12/31/17


This article is an excerpt from the Handbook for Excellent Restaurant Operations (HERO), published by the Washington Hospitality Association.  Want a hard copy of the whole manual?  It’s one of the many benefits of becoming a member!  Find out more about joining the Washington Hospitality Association here.

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Categories: HERO