A Denny’s employee sued his employer, arguing the restaurant chain had to reimburse its workers for the cost of slip-resistant shoes. How did a federal court rule in this California case?
Rolando Lemus noted that California Labor Code required employers to reimburse its employees for “necessary expenditures … incurred by the employee.” Lemus says this is particularly the case regarding slip-resistant shoes because they aren’t regulated by federal or California OSHA.
But the Ninth Circuit Court found that, under California law, a restaurant employer must only pay for its employees’ work clothing if it’s a uniform. California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement clarified the definition of uniform: It doesn’t include items such as white shirts, dark pants, and black shoes and belts.
Lemus claimed the shoes were part of a uniform, but the court disagreed. However, Lemus had two more arguments why Denny’s should reimburse employees for their slip-resistant shoes.
He argued that Denny’s violated California Labor Code when it deducted the cost of its employees’ slip-resistant footwear purchased from a third-party vendor from workers’ wages.
Lemus argues Denny’s employees didn’t expressly authorize in writing that wage deductions could be made for the shoes because they were ordered electronically.
But the court noted that California law specifically states that an electronic record satisfies the requirement for written permission. In this case, Lemus ordered his shoes online and logged onto the computer using a personal password.
His last argument was that Denny’s violated California Labor Code by coercing its employees to buy slip-resistant shoes from its preferred vendor.
The court found there was no evidence that Denny’s threatened Lemus or indicated it would punish him if he didn’t buy his shoes from the vendor. Some pressure to use the vendor didn’t amount to coercion, according to the court.
For those reasons, the court threw out Lemus’ lawsuit. The court said it didn’t have to address whether the lack of OSHA rules on the shoes entered into the case.
(Rolando Lemus v. Denny’s Inc., U.S. Circuit Court 9, No. 13-55623, 6/18/15)