Stores to Workers: Wear What You Sell
This is one of those stories that just won’t go away.
Way back in 2002, Sfgate.com reported on California stores routinely insisting that staff "buy and wear at work the brands they sell" in what industry experts and the California Labor Commission described as "a practice that violates state law," reflecting industrywide concerns. At the time, one employment attorney insisted "the issue is black and white" as statutes protect people from being forced to buy uniforms.
A full seven years later, The Associated Press covered a lawsuit won by employees protesting about being forced to buy and wear their employers’ ranges. California state claimed Abercrombie & Fitch’s "Appearance/Look Policy" required staff to buy the company’s clothes.
Denying wrongdoing, Abercrombie insisted discounts were offered to encourage (not require) staff to wear their clothes. Following the lawsuit, they agreed "not to force workers to buy its clothes" and to reimburse former employees for purchases made during the period cited.
Flash forward to 2012 and Australia’s Herald Sun insists retailers pressuring staff to wear new season items without fully reimbursing them could be breaking the law. Several stores were accused by employees of requiring them to spend more than their discounts and allowances covered.
Keywords are "latest season trends" and "full reimbursement" with employees and employers disputing requirements and costs. The Fair Work Act specifies that "required clothing" should be paid for by employers.
Australia’s Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, reportedly told news.com.au that "federal workplace authorities would now raise the issue with retailers and unions to clarify workers’ rights. … The Fair Work Act provides that a business can’t unreasonably direct the employee on how to spend their wages." A Facebook page was set up to hold him to it. News.com.au says it was "inundated" with employees’ experiences following its story while many managers received policy reminders to reduce discrepancies between how they are stated and how they’re practiced.
In the U.S., associates at stores with suggested dressing appear to receive a generous discount — typically 50 percent off — on a limited amount of items per month. After the limit is reached, the regular employee discount for many comes to around 30 percent.
- Retail staff struggle to dress the part with employers’ expectations high – Herald Sun
- Retailers warned on forcing staff to buy pricey clothes for shop floor – Courier Mail
- Employees win dress code lawsuit – CBS News
- Retail clothing industry’s apparel rules called illegal/Stores require workers to buy and wear their brands – San Francisco Chronicle
- Discounts for employees? – The Fashion Spot
- How Ten Other Retailers’ Dress Codes Compare to American Apparel – New York Magazine
Discussion Questions: When should and shouldn’t clothing stores compensate store staff for required or suggested wardrobes? Is a discount enough? Are retailers’ expectations for staff to dress in a certain way unrealistic?