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Things You Can Do to Fight Wage Garnishment

Wage garnishment is a terrible thing to endure. You work hard all day and put in crazy overtime just to be told your hard earned money is coming out of your check. You knew you were being sued for a car payment, or because you had to move out of your apartment, or because the court wasn’t fair when it ordered child support or alimony payments. You just couldn’t afford what the court ordered, no matter how hard you tried. Plus, when your court date came, you went to work and missed it because you couldn’t get time off. Now 25% to 60% of your money is being taken out of your paycheck! It is not acceptable to you. You need to fight it or you won’t be able to put gas in your car to get to work in the first place. It is a terrible Catch-22.

Fight Garnishment at Work

Get help from your employer. Go see the Payroll or Human Resources Department. They may be able to help. If you work for a good company, they want to help you and know that keeping you happy keeps productivity up. If this is your first wage garnishment, don’t worry. Your job is safe. Federal Law protects you. You can’t be fired for your first garnishment. Explore all avenues. Maybe the math has been done wrong because your total garnishment was based on some really high overtime periods? Maybe there was just a clerical error? Your payroll person may have read the garnishment order wrong and took too much out. You would be surprised how many times too much is taken out.

Fight Garnishment by Contacting Your Labor Department

You have legal rights. The Consumer Credit Protection Act says you can’t have more than 25% of your money ripped out of your paycheck in most cases, unless you are dealing with bankruptcy, child support, or taxes. Most states have laws that protect you too. Some states even have very consumer friendly Labor Departments that will help you and take your side. So, if working with your employer to fight your wage garnishment doesn’t work, contact your state’s Labor Department and ask for help. You may find an advocate! Be especially polite and thankful, and emphasize your economic hardship, especially if you have children that will be suffering as a result of your terrible ordeal. In some cases, you may be able to obtain government assistance to help reduce the sting of your garnishment. Be sure to explore all avenues.

What is a Wage Garnishment?

A wage garnishment is a legal action or court case against a worker where his or her money is legally, and sometimes unfairly, torn from a hard earned paycheck. It starts with a court judgment against you. Then there is a process for asking the court to assist with legally forcing your employer to take a large amount of money out of your check until the judgment is paid off. Sometimes there are lots of fines and penalties included which make payment of the judgment worse than trying to pay down a high interest credit card. Of course it is nice to be the person receiving a check from your employer of money that you earned, but it sure doesn’t help you make ends meet.

The good news, there are things you can do to fight wage garnishment.

Fight the Garnishment Before the Judgment

Now that we have answered the question, what is a wage garnishment, we know it is something that happens after you get a judgment against you. So, this means you should always go to court to fight any case against you. You don’t want to risk losing without even being there. You might get an overpriced judgment against you, and the next time you hear about it is when the Payroll Department butchers your check. Never skip a court date! You may be thinking this doesn’t help you now. You are reading this because you already received your garnishment and are looking for help fighting it, not preventing it. It is too late! But, even if this is the case, you never, ever want another judgment against you. The reason is you are only being protected from being fired for your first “single indebtedness,” according to the rules of the Consumer Credit Protection Act. You never want to have two or more garnishments against you because it may put your job in jeopardy.

Fighting the Garnishment Before the Money Is Taken from Your Check

If you have not yet been garnished but you think it is coming, because you have educated yourself by researching what is a wage garnishment, there are a few things you can do after you have lost at court. You should contact a lawyer and work out a settlement agreement that can be filed with the court agreeing on exactly how you will pay off the judgment. As long as you make payments as agreed, you will not be garnished. Another thing you can do is borrow money to pay the judgment off so it is satisfied. Being satisfied means paid off. You cannot be sued for a satisfied or paid off judgment.

What is Wage Garnishment?

Lawyers and Judges and employers will tell you a wage garnishment is nothing more than a legal procedure where pursuant to a court judgment, an employee’s wages are automatically reduced by his employer by 25% to 65% and sent to a third party. To you, if you are the garnishee, which means you are the person having money ripped out of your check, even if what is happening to you is called legal, you call it Highway Robbery. Unfortunately, the law allows money to be taken out of your check, without your agreement, for things like child support, alimony, car payments, taxes, bankruptcy, broken apartment leases, and sometimes to pay restitution in criminal cases. Even though you suffer financial hardship and unfortunate circumstances, judges and congressmen don’t care. They still want money squeezed out of your check. You have not suffered enough.

Garnishment: How it Usually Works

We’ve answered what is wage garnishment, but how does it work? It usually starts with losing at court. The judge enters an order, or a judgment, against you for a certain amount of money. When you are unable to pay it off, your boss, or employer, gets a letter, or an order, demanding that money starts coming out of your check. Your boss, or employer, will then have to start sending somewhere between 25% and 65% of your money to someone else, often each time you are supposed to get paid. This means you get a lot less with many or all of your checks. The amount of the garnishment usually goes directly from your employer to the court, a trustee, or to the person you have been ordered to pay the money. It all depends on what state you are in. Your employer will keep taking the money out of your check until the court judgment is all paid off. You’ll often be charged extra fees, costs, penalties and interest.

Before You See a Lawyer or the Labor Department About Your Garnishment

Go see your Human Resources person or Payroll person immediately. They will probably help, and if this is the first time you’ve been garnished, the law protects you from being fired for just for having a debt, or garnishment. Ask them everything. What is a wage garnishment? What can we do? How do we fight this terrible problem? In some cases, you can ask for a hearing or you can argue you shouldn’t have to pay as much as they want torn from your check. Sometimes you do your own calculations and have to provide documentation on how you did your math. However, if you can’t get a fair result by working with your employer towards an amicable resolution for everyone, contact your Labor Department for help, or see if you can get a free attorney consultation on the matter.

If Your Wages are Garnished Your Job is Safe

In this economy, the rules have changed. Good people that have always been financially responsible have in some cases been given no options. Salary reductions, increased costs, layoffs, and the difficulty of obtaining credit have put so many of us in positions where we simply don't have enough money to make ends meet. We've done everything we could. We stopped going out to eat, we keep the air conditioning at 80F rather than 76F, we don't drive as much or take vacations any more. We still work just as hard as ever, if not more. In some cases, we've lost our jobs and just can't find a replacement. If we still have our jobs, they are still very precious to us. This is why anything that can jeopardize our employment is very serious.

Never fret, if you are gainfully employed and suffer a wage garnishment, and it is the first time you've been garnished "for a single indebtedness," the Consumer Credit Protection Act, Title III, protects your job.

This means that the US Congress and President of the United States decided to protect you from being fired over being garnished for a single debt. They saw that in some cases, people are doing their best to make ends meet, and sometimes working hard isn't alone enough.

For instance, let's say you've been working at the same job for the last 10 years. You've always paid your debts, and you've never been broke. You simply supported your family, went on vacations, and even saved some for your kids' college. But then the perfect storm came! You didn't get your Christmas bonus, and you haven't gotten a raise for the last 3 years. Prices are always going up. The excuse is always the bad economy. And to make things worse, one of your children had a medical emergency that wasn't covered by your company's health insurance. You ended up with a $15,000 bill you just couldn't pay. You couldn't hire a lawyer, you were sued, and then you got a judgment against you. Now your employer just told you your wages are going to be garnished 25%. That's bad enough, but you have a huge worry.

Is your job safe? Can you be fired because your wages are being garnished?

The answer is no! The Law protects you! Thank you Consumer Credit Protection Act!


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What is Wage Garnishment?

Having your wages garnished is a very difficult thing. You work hard to pay your rent or mortgage, the utility bills keep going up, and sometimes you don’t even know if you are going to be able to put gas in your car. You have a family to support and living paycheck to paycheck, hand to mouth, is killing you. Then the unthinkable happens! Your employer starts taking money out of your paycheck. When you go to Human Resources, they tell you there is nothing that can be done because it is the law. You’ve suffered a severe cut in pay just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse! You have to know: what is a garnishment and what are your rights?