CA-Employee-Dress-Code-What-Must-Your-Employer-Pay-For.jpg (2149×1159)There is a fine line between uniforms and dress codes, one that is vital for employee rights according to California law. Employers to enforce a dress code that could reasonably be constructed from an employee’s own closet do not have to pay for employee attire. Even if you have to buy a few new items of clothing to comply.

However, if your employer’s “dress code” crosses certain lines, it enters the realm of a uniform; something that the employer must pay for through provision or reimbursement. Considering the well-known tale of Abercrombie & Fitch, it’s easy to see why. Employers, by law, are not allowed to use exploitative dress codes to offload their overhead costs when what they are really asking for is an employee uniform, not a dress code at all.

So today, we are featuring the five types of dress code that are officially uniforms your CA employer must pay for, provide, or reimburse.

Logo-Bearing Clothing

Your employer requires you to wear shirts, vests, or whole outfits that bear the company logo. This is very common in retail and hospitality where ‘branded employees’ are considered a handy way to make staff identifiable to customers. Logo-bearing shirts are not inherently bad, as long as your employer is providing (at no cost to you) the shirts they want you to wear. 

A good CA employer will provide you with the shirts or give you credits to buy them at a specific online store. A law-breaking employer will try to make you buy the shirts from them or tell you where to buy their logo-branded uniforms without reimbursing you for the cost. Often after the job contract has already been signed. 

Wearing the Brand Merchandise

The Abercrombie & Fitch case is a notorious employee-exploitation scam in which the well-known fashion label was forcing their low-paid retail workers to buy and wear the overpriced clothing while working the floor. Right down to the socks. This was effectively forcing employees to pay all of their wages right back to the company as unwilling customers who could not afford the products and resulted in a huge legal battle in which Abercrombie & Fitch lost.

So if your employer is forcing you to buy and wear branded merchandise, they are breaking the law. And they know it.

Theme Uniforms You Couldn’t Wear to Dinner (or Another Job)

Sometimes, an employer will try to get away with turning their dress code into a uniform so specific that all employees must buy specific items. Often from specific retailers designated by the employer. It’s one thing to make your dress code “button-down white shirt and black slacks”, which anyone could wear to dinner or another job.

It’s another to require you to wear, for example, criss-cross overalls in dark green, a bright yellow shirt with red cuffs, and platform shoes. If you couldn’t wear the outfit reasonably to a nice dinner or to another job right after, then it’s a uniform. If a reasonable person would not have this outfit anywhere in their closet or could only buy it from one retailer, it is a uniform. Which means your employer should be paying for it.

Mandatory Employer-Provided Clothing

Whether or not the items of clothing are branded or overtly uniform-like, your dress code is also a uniform if your employer only allows you to buy it from them or one specific retailer. This is a form of forced commerce and is not allowed to be considered a casual, or even formal, dress code. 

It is, in fact, quite common in some industries to require employees to wear clothes from a specific supplier. In positions concerning lab safety or manufacturing, for example, you may need to wear very specific materials, have specific skin coverage, and so on. But no matter how plain the outfits look, if you are required to acquire them from your employer or their supplier, then this is legally a uniform (and/or safety equipment) and your employer should cover the costs.

However, if they simply list the specifications like that clothing must be 100% cotton, long sleeves, with close-toed leather shoes, this is a dress code and it’s on you.


Finally, there are costumes. Costumes fall under the ‘anything you can’t wear to dinner or another job’ principle. For example, if your employer requires you to wear a mascot suit to perform at birthday parties, they cannot make you buy or rent the suit. Likewise, an employer cannot require you to dress in any sort of non-normal-clothing costume ranging from themed outfits to generic Halloween costume gear without covering the costs because you would not reasonably have these things in your closet or be able to wear them for outside-work activities. 

Is your employer forcing you to pay for clothing that is officially in the uniform, costume, or safety equipment categories? If so, they are breaking the law and there is a good chance that they are fully aware of this infraction. You don’t have to spend your hard-earned money paying for clothes you couldn’t wear to another job or events outside of work. You can stand up for your rights and the rights of all your coworkers being asked to do the same thing.

Here at Aiman-Smith and Marcy, we believe strongly that employee rights were written to be upheld and that companies take far too many liberties at the expense of their staff. Contact us today to find out how you can defend your rights through polite legal pressure, civil lawsuits, and class actions based on what is necessary to make your employer change their ways. We are here to defend your employee rights and the rights of every other employee who can benefit from your fight.

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Lisseth Bayona


Education and Background

I am a Los Angeles native and daughter of Salvadorian immigrants. From an early age, my parents instilled the value of hard work and education in me and my two siblings. Their perseverance enabled each of us to graduate from college and earn professional degrees.

My interest and commitment to workers’ rights have roots in my parents’ experiences as undocumented workers in Los Angeles. Witnessing the challenges they faced inspired me to pursue a career where I can help individuals confronted with similar struggles. To help someone in those moments is very satisfying. I love connecting with people and learning about their stories. I believe that dignity in the workplace is a right of all workers, not a convenience or privilege reserved for employees of a certain race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

Legal Experience

I received my J.D. from the University of Southern California (USC) Gould School of Law. While there, I served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Patrick J. Walsh of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, where I drafted a criminal judicial opinion. Also, while at Gould, I served as an extern for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. As a Criminal Division Extern, I had the opportunity to work closely with a trial team of Assistant U.S. Attorneys on a money laundering case which further sparked my interest in litigation.

Personal Interests

In my free time, I enjoy urban vegetable gardening, traveling, and spending time with my nephew and niece. I also love to spend time at San Onofre Beach learning to surf, although admittedly, I am not very good.



Hallie L. Von Rock

Attorney (SBN 233152)

Education and Background

I moved to the Bay Area from Washington after graduating high school. I had been accepted to UC Berkeley through a program where I could defer for two years while getting my California residency and attending community college, which was significant since I was paying for college on my own. I began working for Randall Aiman-Smith and Reed Marcy in 1996 as an office manager while taking night classes. My first foray into the legal world was soon after starting at the firm when I was ready to transfer to UC Berkeley. Rather than accepting my resident status, the Board of Regents took the position that California residency required a student to be in California “two calendar years.” Randall and Reed took up my case with the same verve as they helped their actual clients and I got the chance to comb through the UC Berkeley library to read their codes and regulations to support my position. In that experience, I learned what is was like to feel helpless against a big organization and then to have dedicated attorneys in my corner to take up my cause.

After a break to pursue my major in art history, I went to UC Hastings College of Law and continued working with Randall and Reed. Having worked together now for over 25 years, we have a unique ability to work collaboratively and finish each other’s sentences. I have strived throughout my career to make a difference in the lives of our clients. At the end of the day, if I am helping someone to get compensation for losses they suffered, then I know that all the work put into a case has been worth it.

Legal Experience

I have extensive experience in civil litigation and class action cases, including conducting discovery and depositions, calculating damages analysis, preparing motions for certification, writing appellate documents, and overseeing claims administration. We have handled several class actions against retailers where plaintiffs claimed they were forced to purchase clothing to wear to work and were not compensated for these purchases, including against Abercrombie & Fitch, Hugo Boss, Armani Exchange, Uniqlo, Dollar Tree, and Ross. Recently, I was trial counsel in a defamation claim against Bank of America on behalf of a former employee who claimed the Bank blacklisted her with future employers. The jury found Bank of America liable, including for punitive damages.

Personal Interests

Aiman-Smith & Marcy has sponsored me in the Boston Marathon and New York Marathon. When I race, I often wear a “Rockstar Ronan” shirt to support research for childhood cancer through The Ronan Thompson Foundation.


University of California, Berkeley, B.A., 1999

Hastings College of the Law, University of California, J.D., 2004

Randall Aiman-Smith

Abogado (SBN 124599)

Aiman-Smith & Marcy. Oakland consumer fraud attorneys.

Educación y antecedentes

Fui afortunado. A pesar de no haber terminado la escuela secundaria o la universidad, pude -aunque con mucho trabajo- ser admitido y sobresalir en una de las mejores escuelas de derecho del país: La Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Berkeley. Mientras estuve allí, tuve el privilegio de ser editor de la California Law Review y miembro del Moot Court Board, asesorando en la redacción de escritos y en la defensa de apelaciones a otros estudiantes. Después de salir de la escuela de derecho, en mis primeros años de práctica, enseñé la escritura legal y la defensa de apelación en la Universidad de California, Hastings College of the Law. También, a lo largo de los años, he sido presentador en eventos de educación legal continua.

Experiencia legal

He sido abogado durante 35 años. He dedicado mi práctica exclusivamente a representar a empleados, consumidores e inversores en los tribunales estatales y federales de primera instancia y en los tribunales de apelación. Me gusta ir a los tribunales por mis clientes y he llevado muchos casos con jurado en los tribunales estatales y federales.

¿Ejemplos? En 2010, fui la abogada principal, junto con los otros abogados del bufete, en el caso Williams v. Union Pacific Railroad donde, después de cuatro años de preparación, el bufete obtuvo un veredicto del jurado de 1.670.000 dólares para una empleada afroamericana. En Rivero v. Surdyka, fui el abogado principal en el juicio y la apelación de un caso de derechos civiles que duró 15 años, incluyendo un juicio completo y tres apelaciones al Noveno Circuito, concluyendo finalmente con una sentencia para los demandantes de más de 2.300.000 dólares. Estos casos ilustran el lema del bufete: compromiso – resultados. Hay que comprometerse con un caso, a veces durante mucho tiempo, para obtener el resultado que el cliente merece.

No siempre ganamos en el juicio. Cuando eso ocurre, el compromiso significa llevar el caso al siguiente nivel y recurrirlo. En el caso Rivero, antes mencionado, eso fue lo que ocurrió: el tribunal desestimó el caso -habíamos perdido- pero apelamos y conseguimos una victoria para nuestros clientes que mantuvimos a través de dos apelaciones más. Desde entonces, el bufete ha conseguido muchas victorias en apelación que reivindican los derechos de los empleados y los consumidores.

A lo largo de los años he sido abogado de los demandantes en numerosos casos individuales y acciones colectivas. Puede sonar cursi, o difícil de creer, pero después de todo este tiempo, y después de todas las grandes experiencias que he tenido, mi parte favorita de ser abogado es cuando consigo dar un cheque a mi cliente.



Facultad de Derecho, Universidad de California, Berkeley, J.D., 1986