The Law @ Work

New Minimum Wage Regulations Include Significant Changes Regarding Uniforms

by Amelia J. Holstrom

On January 16, 2015, the Massachusetts Department of Labor issued minimum wage regulations to clarify practices and policies under the Minimum Fair Wages Act.  Although the January 1, 2015 increase in the state minimum wage has received a lot of attention, we’ve heard a lot less about the other changes in the regulations.  For example, the regulations make substantial changes to the existing rules regarding employee uniforms.

Under the old regulations, when employer-required uniforms needed dry-cleaning, commercial laundering, or other special treatment, the employer was only required to reimburse the employee for the actual costs of such service if the costs reduced the employee’s hourly rate below the basis minimum wage.  Under the new regulations, however, employers must reimburse the employee for all actual costs of dry-cleaning, commercial laundering, or other special treatment even if the cost of such special care does not reduce the employee’s hourly pay below minimum wage.

In addition, employers can no longer require employees to pay for required uniforms. The new regulations explicitly state that “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.”

It is important for employers to note that a “uniform” is not limited to the shirt the employee is required to wear, but rather includes “all special apparel, including footwear, which is worn by an employee as a condition of employment.”  Thus, this would include items such as name tags, hats, aprons or protective gear.

In our next installment, we will discuss how the new minimum wage regulations affect employers’ posting and recordkeeping obligations.

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