Wage Garnishment FAQ

Getting your wages garnished is an embarrassing situation, often made worse but at least a perceived threat of losing your job. While most employers know that they can’t threaten job loss if an employee’s wages are being garnished, that doesn’t stop many of them from making the garnishee’s life uncomfortable about the whole thing.

In fact, you cannot be fired from a job because someone has garnished your wages, although multiple garnishments may be a different story. You are protected by Title Three of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA).

Wage garnishments under the CCPA, according to a DOL Fact Sheet, are any legal or equitable procedure through which some portion of a person’s earnings is required to be withheld by an employer for the payment of a debt. Most garnishments are made by court order.

Other types of legal or equitable procedures where your wages may be garnished include IRS or state tax collection agency levies for unpaid taxes, and federal agency administrative garnishments for non-tax debts owed to the federal government.

Wage garnishments under this law do not include voluntary wage assignments-i.e., situations in which employees voluntarily agree that their employers may turn over some specified amount of their earnings to a creditor or creditors.

This law applies to every single person in this country, regardless of employer. The CCPA prohibits an employer from firing an employee whose earnings are subject to garnishment for any one debt, regardless of the number of levies made or proceedings brought to collect that debt, because of the single garnishment. The Act does not prohibit discharge because an employee’s earnings are separately garnished for two or more debts.

How much can a creditor garnish under this law? For the most part, the garnishment can’t exceed 25% of the amount of wages left over after all of the other legal deductions, like taxes and Social Security, are taken out, but there are other formulas for some circumstances.

Garnishments for child support are figured differently, allowing up to 60% of a person’s wages to be taken for that purpose. Other debts, including student loans, have other percentage restrictions.

If your wages have been garnished, and you feel that your job security has been threatened by your employer, contact an experienced employment attorney.