What-Your-California-Employer-Cant-Make-You-Pay-For.jpg (2149×1159)Some employers are insidious. They will find a way to pinch a penny out of anything, including the employees. If you’ve ever had a boss that liked to deduct things from your paycheck or make you pay for little damages, you know exactly what we are talking about. There are a number of things employers can make you pay for. Coffee in the break room, for one. But there are also more than a few things they can’t make you pay for.

Here in the state of California, labor laws define that an employer cannot require a team member to take on expenses that are an integral part of the job. This is because, in its way, that is a certain type of fraud to lie about the true compensation in wages, because the employer plans to take back some of those wages as fees.

So where are you safe? What can’t your California employer charge you for? The laws are pretty specific.


First, your employer can’t make you pay for a mandatory can’t-wear-it-elsewhere uniform. Just know the difference between a uniform (employer pays) and a dress-code outfit (you pay).

A dress-code outfit is something you could wear on the street, out shopping, or to another job. It’s not obviously a uniform and it’s made of normal clothes you could buy in a normal department store.

A uniform, however, is something you couldn’t wear to another job and/or you had to buy from a specific brand or place. For example, if you can only purchase your work outfit from your employer, it’s a uniform. If you couldn’t wear it casually into an IHOP, it’s a uniform. If it’s branded or custom and you couldn’t wear it to another job, it’s a uniform and your employer pays. 


Gratuities are when you “comp” something for a customer. We most commonly see gratuities in restaurants, like when a waiter gives you a free dessert as an apology for spilling your water. That waiter then can’t be charged for the dessert, because gratuities are an employer responsibility. Those are considered a cost of doing business and any business that can “comp” items should have a budget for that. Employees cannot legally be charged for gratuities in California.


This one is an odd specialty just for Cali: If your employer requires you to bring in a photograph, they have to pay for the print. This relates to jobs that require headshots or media portfolios as part of their job. Because photo printing can run up in dollars (and used to be much more expensive), employers are required to take on the cost of photo printing by law. 

Skilled Labor Bonds

Skilled laborers like roofers and technicians often need to be bonded to insure their work to the customers. Service employers may require bonding, a certification-like process that costs money to acquire, before a technician can be hired or work for the team. Because bonds cost money and employers can require them, California employers are also required to cover the costs to keep their skilled employees bonded.

Business Expenses

Business expenses relate to any spending that goes toward the business. For example, your employer can ask you to pay for your own lunch ordered to the office. But they can’t make you personally pay for a catering order for the office. In fact, no business expense can be taken out of an employee’s pocket legally, even if it seems more convenient at the time.

Your employer must reimburse you if you pick up a box of paperclips or cover your own travel expenses as long as the spending is required for business operations. 

Medical or Physical Exams

Lastly, your employer cannot make you pay for medical tests or physical exams. If your employer wants everyone to have a physical checkup for the employee health program, they can’t make you pay for your appointment. If your employee wants to drug test, they can’t make employees pay the cost.

Is your employer making you or others you know pay for things they shouldn’t? Some employers just don’t know better, some are deliberately breaking the law to put their own costs on the shoulders of employees. This is a form of wages fraud, planning to take employee’s wages back after compensating them for the work done. Don’t let that stand. 

Here at Aiman-Smith and Marcy, we are dedicated to helping employees stand up for their rights and stop abusive employer practices. Contact us today to learn how you can stop your employer from illegally making employees pay for their own business expenses.

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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