No one likes it when someone else takes their hard-earned money, especially straight out of their paycheck. Yet wage garnishment can do just that and often catches folks by surprise when it happens. It can leave you wondering what else to expect. Fortunately it is not legal to fire employees over a single garnishment.
Wage garnishment is when a part of the earnings on your paycheck is taken from you by your employer to pay a debtor or other judgment. Your employer is required to deduct some of your wages. While you may be upset with your company when you notice money missing from your paycheck, your employer is also not thrilled that it is involved in your financial or legal problem. While you might not lose your job over a wage garnishment, you will lose some pay and possibly some sleep. Deal with creditors or court orders before it gets to this point so you won't have to deal with your employer on the matter.
Consumer Credit Protection Act
Title III of the Consumer Credit Protection Act states, "No employer may discharge any employee by reason of the fact that his earnings have been subjected to garnishment for any one indebtedness." Employers who knowingly violate this law face possible fine, prison time or both. As a federal law, it is valid in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories. If you're dealing with a single wage garnishment, the law is clear that it's on your side.
If your wages have already been garnished, it's important that you don't have any additional wage garnishments if you want to keep your job. While the law is in your favor when it comes to protecting your job from a single wage garnishment, two or more can cost you your job. Federal law does not protect you beyond this limit. In cases where state law protects employee's jobs beyond a single garnishment, the state law is upheld and employers must comply in your favor.
Enforcing Your Rights
If you lose your job due to a single wage garnishment, file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. This department has been given the responsibility of enforcing this law and protecting employees. Report a violation by calling 866-4USWAGE or 866-487-9243.
The Department of Labor will try to resolve the issue informally and seek to reinstate your job and payment of lost wages before taking legal action in court on your behalf.
Sara Mahuron specializes in adult/higher education, parenting, budget travel and personal finance. She earned an M.S. in adult/organizational learning and leadership, as well as an Ed.S. in educational leadership, both from the University of Idaho. Mahuron also holds a B.S. in psychology and a B.A. in international studies-business and economics.