If you have unpaid debts, such as past-due credit card bills, child support, or taxes, your creditor may be able to garnish your paycheck until the debt is paid in full. When this occurs, employers have a legal obligation to withhold some of your wages. They must always follow state and federal rules. If they don't, you have the right to take legal action.
Garnishment of Wages and Salary Is Limited
Federal law allows your employer to withhold a maximum of 25 percent from each paycheck for garnishments. This is calculated on the amount left over after paying all taxes. However, the maximum can be less if your income is low or if your state's laws impose a lower maximum. Your employer needs to figure this out. If your employer take more from your wages than the law allows, it is responsible.
Multiple Garnishments Can Lead to Termination
It is illegal for an employer to fire you because of a single garnishment. But, if more than one creditor requires your employer to garnish your wages, federal law no longer protects your job. Every state drafts its own garnishment rules that can provide you with more rights than the federal law. Depending on where you live, your employer may never be able to terminate you because of a garnishment or may be allowed to do so after receiving multiple garnishment notices from multiple creditors.
Penalties Apply to Employers Who Violate the Law on Garnishment
Penalties may apply to an employer that wrongfully terminates your employment due to wage or salary garnishment. In the event you wrongfully lose your job, your employer may have to pay monetary penalties, may be charged with a misdemeanor, and may even spend up to a year in jail.
A Court May Award You Money Damages for a Wrongful Termination
In addition to penalties and criminal charges, your employer may be liable for any damages you suffer as a result of being wrongfully terminated. You will probably need to file a lawsuit. If the court agrees that you were wrongfully terminated, your employer can be forced to give you your job back and pay you for any wages you lost for the time you were out of work.
An Employment Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding wage garnishment by employers is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. We hope you found it useful. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an employment lawyer.