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January 9, 1997

L&I clarifies work uniform rule

TUMWATER -- The Department of Labor & Industries recently adopted changes to the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) to clarify what constitutes a work uniform and who pays the cost of purchasing and maintaining it.

The Joint Administrative Rules Review Committee (JARRC) of the Legislature asked Labor & Industries to review and clarify the language of L&I's existing rule, in effect since 1976. As a result of that review, the Department has proposed some changes.

The primary changes are:

  • An employer's requirement that employees wear a specific color -- including black or white -- or a specific style of clothing or a specific logo means that this clothing is a uniform and is subject to the rule. The revised rule retains the exception for clothing that is "usually and customarily" worn outside of employment, if the employee is allowed a choice of style and color.
  • The rule will require employers to furnish and maintain any uniform they require employees to wear only when those costs reduce the employee's wage or overtime compensation below the state minimum wage ($4.90 per hour).

Labor & Industries held public hearings in early August on the proposed revisions. As a result of public comment received through those hearings, the department added the following additional clarifications:

  • Employers may prohibit certain articles of apparel as part of a general dress code, provided the prohibition still allows employee options in choice of apparel.
  • Employers are not responsible for laundering "wash and wear" uniforms. Employers are responsible for maintenance of clothing that requires professional cleaning when the cost of maintaining the uniform impacts the employee's minimum wage or overtime compensation.

These rules set minimum standards for all workers and permit collective bargaining agreements to contain provisions regarding wearing apparel more beneficial to the worker.

The revised rule will become effective Jan. 20. To obtain a copy, call 360-902-5316 or write to:

Greg Mowat, Program Manager
Employment Standards Section
Department of Labor & Industries
P.O. Box 44510
Olympia, WA 98504-4510

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