When is Wage Garnishment Unlawful?

Wage garnishment is a legal debt collection tactic that is typically used as a last resort. Wage garnishment is generally permitted provided a creditor follows proper procedures, but it is important to understand the rules surrounding wage garnishment and when it might be illegal.

Understanding Wage Garnishment

There are several steps taken by creditor before wage garnishment is brought into play. These steps include:  

  • Delinquency Notices, which are issued to the debtor upon missed monthly payments or passed due payments. 
  • Debt Sale, to a third-party collector which typically happen ninety to one-hundred twenty days after delinquency notices have been sent. 
  • Re-sale, credit card companies will accept a financial loss and sell to a collector for less then the amount owed. 

What’s Next?

From here the collector has a couple options when pursuing debtor. They can choose to re-re-sell the debt to another third-party collector or move forward with legal action to collect on the debt. If the collector decides to use legal action, this is the point at which the debtor is at risk of wage garnishment. Once the judgment has been made the debtor will receive notification via mailing and the debtors employer is notified to begin garnishing their wages until the debt is settled. 

Employer Laws

Wage garnishment can be a stressful and embarrassing process from the employees perspective. Not only has their income been reduced but now their employer also knows about their financial troubles. While it is illegal for an employer to terminate an employee due to first time wage garnishment it is legally permissible after a second or third offense. 

Illegal Garnishment

It is illegal for an employer to to garnish an employees wages without a court order or written consent from the employee. Typically consented garnishments include health care coverage, pensions plans, and welfare fees. Illegal yet commonly made payroll garnishments include gratuity charges, photographs, bonds, uniforms, business expenses and medical or physical examinations. An employer is required by law to cover the cost of all expenses listed above. 

It is also illegal for an employer to deduct your wages as a result of lost money, lost company property or broken or damaged items. These types of expenses are considered to be the cost of doing business and are to be assumed by the employer. As long as there is evidence or reason to believe that the act was committed intentionally on the employees behave, it is illegal to pursue wage garnishment.

Getting Help

If you believe you are being subject to unfair or illegal wage garnishment, you need to consult with an attorney to protect your rights. Your lawyer can assist you in taking any and all steps necessary to remove or stop an illegal garnishment and get your wages back.

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