New York State imposes special overtime and wage regulations on the hospitality industry, i.e. restaurants and hotels. This includes not only minimum wage rates, but also rules for crediting employee tips, meals allowances, and even requiring additional pay related to employee uniforms. Under New York State Department of Labor regulations, if a hospitality employer “does not maintain required uniforms for any employee,” that is, if the employees must launder their own uniforms, the employees may be entitled to “uniform maintenance pay.”
Dispute Over Appropriate Number of Shirts Heads to Trial
The actual uniform maintenance pay depends on the employer's location and the total hours the employee works. For example, a restaurant in Nassau County with more than 10 employees must give an employee who works more than 30 hours a week uniform maintenance pay of $12.45 per week during 2017. However, an employer is exempt from making these additional payments if the uniforms are “made of 'wash and wear' materials” that the employee can launder at home “with other personal garments.”
If you work in the hospitality industry and your employer fails to provide uniform maintenance pay, you may have the right to sue for damages. A federal court in upstate New York is considering such a case. The court recently denied the hospitality employer's motion to dismiss the case.
The defendant operates a gas station in Ithaca, New York that provides food service, putting it within the umbrella of the hospitality industry. The plaintiff worked the overnight shift. She was required to wear a company-branded polo shirt. During the course of her employment, she was provided with two shirts, which she had to launder herself.
Separately, the plaintiff has alleged that she was the victim of a hostile work environment and that the company retaliated against her when she complained. She sued the defendant over the harassment and retaliation as well as failure to make required uniform maintenance payments.
On the latter issue, the defendant claimed the “wash and wear” exception applied to the polo shirts it issued to the plaintiff. While the plaintiff conceded the shirts were made of “wash and wear” materials and could be laundered at home, she noted the state regulations also require an employer to furnish employees with a “sufficient” number of uniforms “consistent with the average number of days per week worked by the employee.”
The defendant argued that two shirts were sufficient given how often the plaintiff worked. The plaintiff disagreed, telling the court she was only initially given one shirt, which she had to launder multiple times per week due to the “messy nature of the food service work at the gas station.” Given this factual dispute, the judge denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment and said the plaintiff's uniform maintenance pay claim could proceed to trial.
Has Your Employer Illegally Withheld Pay?
Hospitality workers in New York often have to deal with difficult working conditions. They should not hesitate to assert all of their rights to compensation under state and local law. If your employer is not paying you what they should and you need assistance from an experienced New York employment law attorney, contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar today.