Collecting the money you’re owed often requires implementing wage garnishment. This practice ensures that debtors repay the money they owe without exposing themselves to total bankruptcy.
Wage garnishment may be the only reliable method of securing your unpaid debts.
Here are the inside details on wage garnishment you need to know to ensure swift and legal repayment.
What Is Garnishment of Wages?
Wage garnishment refers to withholding a portion of a debtor’s wages and using them to pay off an overdue debt. Wage garnishment is legal and a recognized facet of the US justice system, as it must be legitimized by a court order.
A garnishment definition may sometimes include “paycheck garnishment;”, but there is no difference between the two, as they are simply two different terms referring to the same thing.
There are different types of wage garnishment. The most common types of payroll garnishment include child support & alimony, creditor garnishments from unpaid commercial debts, and garnishments to pay for overdue student loans.
In short, wage garnishment is a court order that part of a debtor’s paycheck will be withheld and given to the creditor to whom they owe money until the debt is fully repaid.
It is one of the most common and effective methods of securing repayment on an overdue debt.
How Garnishment Works
Payroll garnishment begins when a debtor is taken to court because they owe money to a creditor. Once a creditor has convinced the judge that they’re legally owed unpaid money, the judge can issue a court order allowing for the garnishment of wages to begin.
A creditor can then work directly with the debtor’s employer to begin garnishing their wages. The court may determine what percentage of each paycheck will be garnished until the debt is fully paid off.
Under federal laws like the Consumer Credit Protection Act, wage garnishment can seldom exceed 25 percent of the debtor’s disposable income. Such laws also protect employees with wages garnished from being fired due to the garnishment in question.
For ‘non-ordinary’ court orders, like those related to child support payments, wage garnishment may be more severe.
In some alimony cases, garnishment can reach up to 50 percent of disposable income.
Nevertheless, wage garnishment will typically be limited to 25 percent of the debtor’s disposable income in most commercial debt cases.
Depending upon state laws, debtors may have a right to a hearing to limit the amount of wages garnished through the court order. In certain instances, garnishment may be staved off altogether through such hearings.
Court-ordered wage garnishment is often the result of two parties failing to reach a private agreement to pay off a debt. Wage garnishment may be avoided by coming together and establishing a private payment plan between the debtor and creditor.
Employers and Wage Garnishment
Employers play a critical role in the wage garnishment process, as they oversee the paychecks that are actually being garnished to pay off an overdue debt. How does wage garnishment work for most employers?
The court order issued to third-parties like creditors or banks to facilitate wage garnishment is often referred to as the “garnishee order.” The garnishee order serves as a valid legal document informing the employer of their legal responsibility to garnish the wages.
Employers are legally prohibited from firing an employee solely because their wages are being garnished by a court order.
Employers will receive the details about wage garnishment, such as what percentage of wages should be withheld, in the court order provided to them by creditors or the lawyers acting on their behalf.
According to the Department of Labor, the following “earnings” may be eligible for wage garnishment:
- discretionary and nondiscretionary bonuses
- productivity or performance bonuses
- profit sharing
- referral and sign-on bonuses
- moving or relocation incentive payments
- attendance, safety, and cash service awards
- retroactive merit increase;
- payment for working during a holiday
- workers’ compensation payments for wage replacement, whether paid periodically or in a lump sum
- termination pay (e.g., payment of last wages, as well as any outstanding accrued benefits)
- severance pay
- back and front pay payments from insurance settlements.
There are critical limits on the amount of wages that can be garnished, established by laws like the CCPA. The amount that can be garnished is limited to “disposable earnings,” or the amount of earnings left after legal deductions (like state and federal tax) are factored in.
Limitations on garnishments may not always apply to debts due on federal or state taxes or money owed due to certain bankruptcy court orders.
Contacting an attorney is the best way to understand the specifics and limitations of any garnishee notice.
While the CCPA prevents a worker from being fired due to garnishment on one debt of theirs, it does not protect workers from being fired due to earnings being separately garnished for two or more debts. Workers being “dual garnished” may be subject to termination.
How To Garnish Wages?
Wage garnishment effectively begins and ends with a court order. Creditors must take a debtor to court, usually with the assistance of an attorney, and secure a court order or “garnishee notice” which can be provided to employers. Only then can garnishment begin.
Employers will usually be notified that they have to garnish a worker’s wages when they receive a court order or IRS levy from the government.
Employers are legally required to obey valid garnishee orders; employers with questions about the authenticity of a garnishee order should immediately contact an attorney to ascertain its validity.
Employers are encouraged to alert their workers in writing whenever they receive a garnishee order for legal purposes.
The garnishment of wages can be difficult to deal with, and providing written notice ensures the worker is aware of the situation and grants legal cover to the employer in question.
HR and payroll departments should be informed immediately. Wage garnishment cannot be delayed once a valid court order has been received. Attempts to frustrate the legal garnishment of employee wages can land businesses in serious legal jeopardy.
What are garnished wages?
Garnished wages refer to the amount of money withheld from a paycheck to pay back a debt.
What is paycheck garnishment?
Paycheck garnishment is the same thing as wage garnishment – the terms are used interchangeably.
Who is garnishing my wages?
While employers usually garnish wages, given that they oversee paychecks, wage garnishment is secured through a court order, usually by a creditor who is legally owed a sum of money.
What happens after a wage garnishment is paid?
Once a debt is legally paid, wage garnishment must end. Contact your employer if wage garnishment continues after a debt is fully paid off.
Can unemployment be garnished?
In most cases, benefits like unemployment or social security are not garnishable. Exceptions may apply depending upon local and state rules, as well as the specifics of any garnishment case.
What is a garnishee order?
A garnishee order is the legal document serving as a court order which informs employers that garnishment can legally begin to ensure the repayment of a debt.
Is there illegal garnishment of wages?
Payroll garnishment must be authorized by a valid court order obtained by a judge. Any wage garnishment that occurs without a court order is potentially illegal.
Need help? Contact Hanna & Jarbo
The debt collection experts at Hanna & Jarbo boast of a staggering 85% success rate in all collection cases. You won’t find better debt collectors anywhere in the Midwest.
From securing an initial court order to ensuring the total and final repayment of a debt, we’re ready to help you get paid. With years of valuable experience collecting debts in every commercial industry, we stand ready to make debt collection quick, easy, and cost-free.
Specialty Practice Areas
Ready to get repaid? We can manage wage garnishment in any sector. In addition to helping creditors secure payroll garnishment, we also provide a plethora of legal services in various specialty practice areas.
Our legal and commercial expertise covers the following areas:
- Supplier Account Receivables
- Returned Checks (including charge-back credit card payments)
- Landlord-Tenant Debt & Money Judgments
- Charged-off or non-paying commercial credit portfolios
- Construction debts
- Auto loan and deficiencies
- General loans, notes, and credit lines in default
- Secured and unsecured judgments or liens
- Foreign (non-Michigan) judgments
- Mortgage/Land Contract deficiencies
- Other commercial paper receivables
What does working with us look like?
1. Set up a free consultation call. We’ll explain everything you need to know about debt collection
2. Give us your debtor’s information. We need to know what to collect. Invoices, IOUs, leases, or promissory notes. Whatever you’ve got, we can use it.
3. Sit back and relax. You don’t have to do anything further while we track down and collect your debt. We’ll do whatever is necessary to get your money back.
Benefits of Working With Hanna & Jarbo
Hanna & Jarbo offers an effective and affordable debt collection service that ensures you won’t walk away empty-handed. We never collect payment until a debt is fully collected. We don’t get paid until you do.
Thanks to our 85% success rate, the vast majority of our clients are incredibly happy with our services.
Setting up a consultation call is free, and it only takes a few minutes before we get to work on your behalf to ensure swift repayment.
Do it right the first time and avoid wasting your money elsewhere. Contact Hanna & Jarbo today to begin collecting your unpaid debts with masterful wage garnishment services.