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Get informed about team uniforms
Don't expect employees to pay for required special attire.
The dreaded uniform. Mere whispers of the word can bring employees to the brink of riots. But uniforms—color-coordinated scrubs for your technicians, white coats for the doctors, and button-down shirts for your receptionists (all adorned with your practice's logo)—promote team unity and help give your practice a professional image. And because of that, uniforms could be considered an asset to your business. So shouldn't you cover the cost of your employee's uniforms?
There are no laws that require veterinary employees to wear uniforms, but many states do require a business to provide uniforms if the business requires employees to wear them. Here's a good rule of thumb: If the nature of your business requires a uniform (it does) or if it's a practice policy, then the cost and replacement of the uniform should be the practice's responsibility. According to federal law, if you give your employees a uniform allowance, it isn't counted as wages and can't be used as credit toward meeting minimum wage obligations. Most states simply follow the federal law; however, some states have enacted additional provisions. Be sure to check with a labor attorney for specific state rules.
If you're going to require uniforms, it's standard practice in our profession for you to provide them. The regular laundering and care of the uniforms is usually the responsibility of the team member. Replacing the uniform because of normal wear and tear is usually the responsibility of the practice. However, if the uniform is damaged because of employee neglect, abuse, or misuse, he or she can only be held financially accountable for replacement as long as it doesn't reduce his or her earnings below the minimum wage level. The practice must also have a written policy explaining that uniforms are the property of the practice and not the employee.
Phil Seibert, CVT, is an author, speaker, and consultant with SafetyVet in Calhoun, Tenn. Send questions or comments to email@example.com.