Following a new mandatory “dress code” update at Wal-Mart, many employees are extremely unhappy with the way that the company is changing the rues. Workers now have to pay for new clothes out of their own pockets to be in compliance with the new dress code. What’s different? Employees now have to wear a white or navy blue polo shirt and either black or khaki pants or skirts to work as well as the Wal-Mart vest to follow the new dress code. The vest will be paid for by Wal-Mart, but the other items will not.
Many employees and others see the new “dress code” as a uniform, not simply rules to go by, like a dress code should be. If a company requires a “uniform”, then they have to pay for it according to the U.S. Department of Labor. So the question then becomes: is it legal for the retailing giant to force employees to pay for clothing to wear to work.
Legal experts are at odds here over the situation. Some see the problem, but feel that employees may have a hard time getting out of buying new clothes. According to one legal expert on Yahoo Finance, Judy Conti: “When an employer selects clothing you could wear anywhere else, they are not required to pay for it,” she says. “Black or khaki pants – it doesn’t come more basic than that. White or navy blue shirt: now, maybe you don’t wear white or maybe you don’t wear navy, but I’ll bet you wear one of them.”
Other legal experts see it a different way. According to Yahoo Finance, Heidi Moore of The Guardian considers the new policy to be a bit much on workers that are already tapped for cash with a small take home pay. She said “It is pretty much an egregious issue… it’s a huge chunk of their take-home pay and Walmart employees have been complaining for years – and even staging protests and walk-outs – that they are not paid enough, that they’re not paid a living wage.”
The retailing giant says that their average full-time hourly wage is $12.92 here in the US. They also say that those needing to buy new clothing are free to do so anywhere, that they do not have to purchase them from Wal-Mart, but they have extended an offer of 10% discount on clothing to employees. So, if an employee buys two pairs of pants and two shirts from the Wal-Mart website, it will cost them about $48 with the discount.
Heidi Moore think that this discount is not enough and compares it to other store’s discount policies. “If you work at any other store, whether it’s Macy’s (M) or Club Monaco, Urban Outfitters, you get 50% discounts, sometimes 60% discounts, so it’s also pretty chintzy on that front,” she says.
To put it in terms for Oklahoma residents, Armstrong & Vaught looked at Oklahoma labor laws to determine how the uniform issue is addressed: An employer in Oklahoma may require an employee to pay for a required uniform. If the employer furnishes the uniform, Oklahoma law permits the employer to take a credit equal to the reasonable cost of furnishing the uniform. Additionally, the employer could allow the employee to purchase the uniform on “credit” and require payment for the cost of the uniform through a payroll deduction. If this is done, the employer is required to enter into a written agreement with the employee before deducting the cost of the uniform from the employee’s wages. Absent a written agreement with the employee, deducting the uniform costs would violate Oklahoma law.
If you have questions about uniform and dress code policies at your work, contact our offices today for a free consultation (918) 582 – 2500.
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