Fashion giant Polo Ralph Lauren is being sued by a group of workers over its uniform policy which they claim forces them to spend up to a third of their salary on the latest company fashions.

The suit was filed in a court in California by Toni Young and other unnamed complainants. They allege workers at Ralph Lauren's Polo stores have to buy and wear the latest collections or risk losing their jobs.

Young's lawyer, Patrick Kitchin, claims his client has spent up to $35,000 on Polo apparel in the past five years as a result of the dress code policy and described such workers as "captive customers".

She now wants rules governing employees' uniforms relaxed or scrapped as well as money towards the cost of the clothes she has bought since 1997 in order to keep her job at a San Francisco store.

New York-based Polo Ralph Lauren would not comment on pending litigation although it does operate a programme which allows sales staff to offset the cost of new clothing against future pay.