What is a garnishment? When an employer receives an order from
a judicial or governmental agency requiring the employer to withhold a certain
sum from the wages of an employee for payment of a debt, it is called wage
garnishment. There are both federal and state laws that apply to wage garnishments.
These laws set maximum amounts that can be garnished from an
employee’s paycheck, and the priority of certain types of garnishments over
others when an employer is faced with deductions from an employee’s paycheck
for more than one garnishment. In addition, the Bankruptcy Code prohibits
garnishment and tax levies once the employee has filed for bankruptcy. An
employer may not discharge an employee because of wage garnishment “for any
one indebtedness” in order to prevent discrimination.
Employers must also take specific steps upon receipt of a collection
request from an outside agency, including answering the order and calculating
A garnishment is an order of a court
to an employer (the garnishee) to withhold a sum of money from the earnings
of an employee (the debtor) for payment of a court- or agency-ordered debt.
There are numerous state and federal laws pertaining to the procedure. Where
state law is more restrictive than federal law (i.e., protects more of the
employee's salary from garnishment), then state law will govern.