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AGLO 1976 No. 48 - August 03, 1976
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

LABOR ‑- RAILROADS ‑- EMPLOYEES ‑- REQUIRING RAILROAD EMPLOYEES TO PURCHASE THEIR OWN UNIFORMS

RCW 81.40.060 does not prohibit a railroad from requiring it employees to purchase their own uniforms; instead, the statute merely makes it unlawful for a railroad or other transportation company to require its employees to purchase uniforms from a particular vendor.

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                                                                  August 3, 1976

Honorable Marcus S. Gaspard
State Representative, 25th District
P.O. Box 295
Puyallup, Washington 98371                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1976 No. 48

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you have requested our opinion on the following specific question:

            "Is it lawful [under RCW 81.40.060] for a transportation company, namely, Amtrak Corporation under contract with the Burlington Northern, Inc., to require conductors and brakeman only to purchase at their own expense uniforms as a condition of their continued employment?"

            We answer the foregoing question in the manner set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 81.40.060, which originated as § 1, chapter 224, Laws of 1907, reads as follows:

            "It shall be unlawful for any railroad or other transportation company doing business in the state of Washington, or of any officer, agent or servant of such railroad or other transportation company, to require any conductor, engineer, brakeman, fireman, purser, or other employee, as a condition of his continued employment, or otherwise to require or compel, or attempt to require or compel, any such employees to purchase of any such railroad or other transportation company or of any particular person, firm or corporation or at any particular place or places, any uniform or other clothing or apparel, required by any such railroad or other transportation company to be used by any such employee in the performance of his duties as such; and any such railroad or transportation company or any officer, agent  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] or servant thereof, who shall order or require any conductor, engineer, brakeman, fireman, purser, or other person in its employ, to purchase any uniform or other clothing or apparel as aforesaid, shall be deemed to have required such purchase as a condition of such employee's continued employment."

            Although this statute, at first blush, might appear to prohibit a railroad or other transportation company from requiring its designated employees to purchase uniforms at their own expense, a careful reading of the statute indicates to us a somewhat narrower prohibition.  As we read it, RCW 81.40.060 merely makes it unlawful for a railroad or other transportation company to require its employees to purchase uniforms or other clothing or apparelfrom a particular vendor (e.g., the railroad itself) or at any particular place or places (e.g., a supplier located in a particular city, etc.).  Thus, such an employer may, without violating the statute, require its conductors, brakemen, firemen, pursers or other employees to purchase their requisite uniforms at their own expense so long as the employer leaves those employees free then to purchase such uniforms wherever they want to.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

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