Should-Your-Employer-be-Paying-for-Your-Uniform.jpg (4297×2317)Should employees have to pay for their uniforms? This is a debate that has been going on for more than two hundred years of worker-employer relationship. So it’s no surprise that the laws regarding employee uniform costs vary from state to state. Fortunately, California laws tend to favor the employee and protect workers from being exploited by the well-funded businesses that employ them.

If a California employer wants you to wear clothes that are not your own and couldn’t be worn elsewhere, they have to pay for it. However, this isn’t something all current professionals are aware of. There are still many businesses that trick their employees into paying for required uniform clothing even in states where this is strictly illegal. They do this to offset costs and to effectively pay workers less than their contractual hourly wages.

But they get away with it because their employees don’t know the law. Or, they think, no one will stand up for themselves for fear of losing their current job. Today, we’re here to help you clearly define if your employer is exploiting the staff by charging for uniforms or refusing to cover uniform costs.

The Difference Between a Uniform and a Dress Code

The biggest misunderstanding in uniform-related disputes is what qualifies as a uniform. Many workplaces seem to require a uniform but, legally, it’s just a very strict dress code. So what’s the difference?

A work uniform is primarily defined by what you can’t do wearing it.

If any of these things are true, then what you are required to wear to work is officially a uniform. However, most workplaces skirt the uniform issue by simply requiring a very strict dress code. This includes, for example, a shirt of a specific color paired with black pants and shoes that are all your own. They may require that the shirt be of a specific style, opacity (not see-through), and sturdiness, but they can’t tell you where to buy your work clothes, what fabric they must be made of, or what you wear underneath.

Uniform Maintenance Costs

Interestingly, your employer is also required to cover the costs of maintaining your uniform. But only if the cost goes above and beyond normal clothing maintenance.

If your supplied uniform can be washed and dried normally with your other laundry, then legally there is not cost of maintenance. However, if your uniform requires any sort of special care, it’s likely your employer owes you the cost of upkeep. Having to iron your uniform, which takes time outside your clocked hours, is an example of uniform maintenance cost. As is having to wash your uniform separately for reasons of color sensitivity or excessive dirtiness. And, of course, having to dry-clean your uniform is an undeniable cost that should be covered.

Costs and Minimum Wage

Under certain circumstances, a California employer may ask a staff member to pay for uniform maintenance, but there is a special rule for workers at and near minimum wage. Your employer may never ask you to cover work-related costs that would bring your effective pay below the state minimum wage. This applies to all costs, not just the uniform, including vehicle usage and docked pay.

Exempt vs Non-Exempt

Finally, the rules to change slightly for officially “exempt” employees. Employers do not have to cover the costs of uniforms or uniform maintenance for exempt employees. Although employees in an exempt position are less likely to be exploited or, for that matter, required to wear a uniform.

If you’re not sure where you stand, it’s easy to find out. To be considered exempt in California, there are three requirements that all must be met:

If you don’t fit the bill for all three, you are not exempt and your employer is obligated to pay the cost of your uniform.

Is your employer requiring staff to pay uniform costs illegally? Whether they are asking you to pay them for provided uniforms, demanding you buy your clothes from the store, or simply not reimbursing you for costs, these are illegal actions. You can take a stand against employee exploitation both for yourself and all your colleagues in the same boat. Here at Aiman, Smith & Marcy, we specialize in helping employees seek justice from exploitative employers who think they can get away with anything. Don’t let them marginalize their costs into your paycheck. And don’t pay for a uniform you can’t wear or use anywhere else. For more information or a consultation on your workplace situation, contact us today! We’re here to help.

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