Can my employer force me to wear a uniform that is unsafe and uncomfortable?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can my employer force me to wear a uniform that is unsafe and uncomfortable?

I work as a bartender in a union hotel. The manager of the hotel is trying to institute a new uniform consisting of a leather apron that is heavy, hot, and impedes the efficiency of our movements. Our work area is adjacent to a wood fired oven, consequently the bar is very warm, warmer in fact than the actual kitchen. The bar area also lacks any direct air conditioning vents and has little air movement. Without the apron I am already over heated to the point of dehydration and need to take multiple breaks in the walk-in cooler to regain a more normal body temperature. My co-workers and I feel that the attempted new uniform change is tantamount to the creation of a work atmosphere that is more conducive to heat exhaustion and thus unsafe. I have already contacted my union but have yet to hear back from them. Do we have any legal recourse? Are there is any OSHA regulation that may apply to this issue or if there is any sort of legal precedence pertaining to similar issues?

Asked on June 21, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

No, this perfectly legal. Employers have enormous latitude in determing dress codes or uniforms for employment, and are allowed to require employees to wear hot, bulky, confining, uncomfortable etc. clothes, including clothing or uniform that risks overheating or impairs movement and efficiency. There is no OSHA regulation which bars uniforms of the type you describe, and very few regulations about clothing generally.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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