Rivermate | Product owner - Andrew Simon

Global Work Glossary

What is wage garnishment and when is it applied?

Garnishment is a legal process through which a creditor collects unpaid debts by withholding money or assets directly from an individual's paycheck or other income source. This process is usually carried out by a third party and then delivered to the creditor, typically used as a final recourse when a debtor fails to make payments on debts like credit cards or student loans, resulting in a court judgment.

What is Wage Garnishment?

Wage garnishment, also known as wage attachment, specifically involves deducting unpaid debts from an employee's wages. Authorized by a court, an employer withholds a portion of the individual's earnings each pay period and transfers it to the creditor. Common instances include unpaid taxes, outstanding student loans, or credit card debts. A garnishment notice is served to the employer by the court, legally obliging them to continue garnishing until the notice expires. Legal constraints often limit the amount that can be garnished, based on the employee's disposable income and dependent status. In the US, for instance, federal regulations permit garnishment of up to 25% of weekly disposable earnings or the surplus over 30 times the federal minimum hourly wage.

Parties Involved in Wage Garnishment

Three key parties are typically involved in wage garnishment:

  • The debtor: The individual owing the debts
  • The garnishee: A third party instructed to withhold wages, such as the employer or bank
  • The garnishor: The creditor issuing the garnishment notice Debtors can appeal garnishment if they find it unjust, citing reasons like excessive deductions, debt payment completion, or procedural errors. Exempt income categories, such as social security or child support, are protected. During appeals, debtors may negotiate with the creditor or file objections with the court.

End of Wage Garnishment

Wage garnishment usually ceases once the debt is settled or alternative arrangements are made with the creditor. Filing for bankruptcy may also halt garnishments, albeit at the expense of property and assets. Additionally, garnishments may terminate upon expiration of the court judgment.

Guidelines for Employers

For employers considering wage garnishment, adherence to legal requirements is paramount:

  • Comply with national and local laws, ensuring accurate procedures and maximum garnishment limits.
  • Understand permissible reasons for garnishment, like child support or tax obligations.
  • Notify employees beforehand, providing transparent documentation regarding garnishment details.
  • Handle garnishment with discretion and sensitivity, recognizing the personal nature of financial challenges.

By following these guidelines, employers can navigate wage garnishment effectively while maintaining legal compliance and sensitivity to employees' financial situations.

Rivermate | A 3d rendering of earth

Hire your employees globally with confidence

We're here to help you on your global hiring journey.