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October 08, 2010
Employee Deductions Involving Tools and Uniforms

Cheryl Orr and Heather Sager discuss employee deductions involving tools, uniforms and gratuity in a BLR webinar entitled ‘Wage Payments: What You Can and Can’t Legally Deduct from Employees’ Pay’. They provide information regarding the ability of an employer to make deductions from an employee’s pay for tools, uniforms and gratuity. Deductions from employee pay should be considered under both federal and state law. Employers may wonder about the following.

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Can I deduct for the cost of tools or uniforms?

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not allow tools, uniforms and other items which are considered to be primarily for the benefit or convenience of the employer to be deducted from the employees’ pay
  • Also, an employer should not take credit for such items for meeting the minimum wage
  • However, an employer can deduct a cost that does not bring the employee below minimum wage
  • State law also varies considerably. Some states require employers to bear the entire costs regarding employee uniforms

Other considerations regarding tools and uniforms include the following:

  • What if the employee doesn’t return them? A cost cannot be deducted from the final paycheck. However, if the employee was informed of a deposit regarding the uniforms or tools, then such deposits may be forfeited if the employee does not return the uniforms or tools
  • Prior authorization can be given to the employer by the employee to deduct uniform and tool related costs from the employee’s pay
  • Any deductions from the employee’s pay should in most cases not bring the employee below minimum wage

Cheryl D. Orr, Esq. is a partner and co-chair of the national Labor and Employment Practice Group at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP ( She concentrates her practice on defending employers against FLSA collective actions and state and federal wage and hour class actions, and she regularly litigates discrimination, harassment, and unfair competition claims. Heather M. Sager, Esq. is also a partner in the Labor and Employment Practice Group at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. Sager focuses her practice on management-side representation in collective and class actions, with particular experience in wage and hour litigation under state and federal law, including representative claims brought under California Business & Professions Code Section 17200.

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