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What Is Wage Garnishment?

Sarah Edwards | April 18, 2023

Sarah Edwards
Legal Expert
Sarah Edwards, BS

Sarah Edwards is a professional researcher and writer specializing in legal content. An Emerson College alumna, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from the prestigious Boston institution.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

You can protect your income and avoid wage garnishment through debt settlement.

Summary: A wage garnishment requires your employer to withhold a portion of your weekly earnings on behalf of a creditor. So, if your wages are being garnished, it probably means that you owe a debt. Use SoloSettle to settle your debt before going to court and avoid a judgment against you, which can lead to wage garnishment.

When you first took out a loan or applied for a credit card, you probably didn’t anticipate problems repaying what you borrowed. You figured you’d make regular monthly payments until you paid down the debt. In the meantime, you’d benefit from the extra cash available to purchase what you needed.

However, sometimes the best plans go awry. Perhaps you lost your job, your income declined, or you suffered from a serious medical issue. Whatever the reason for your lack of payment, your creditor won’t stop hounding you, and now it’s threatening you with a lawsuit.

A creditor can file a debt lawsuit to obtain a judgment against you, which it can use as the basis for wage garnishment. Under wage garnishment, your employer must withhold a portion of your weekly income to satisfy the debt.

Wage garnishments can wreak financial havoc on your life, making paying for other important obligations, like rent or car payments, more challenging. If you have a family, you may find it much harder to provide the monetary support they depend on you for.

Is a creditor suing you for an unpaid debt? SoloSettle can help you negotiate a debt settlement.

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Federal laws for wage garnishment are strict

Federal regulations establish specific wage garnishment limitations. Under 15 USC § 1671, a creditor may garnish your wages for the lesser of two amounts:

  • 25% of your disposable earnings.
  • The amount your disposable earnings exceed 30 times the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour.

Disposable earnings equal your income after required legal deductions, such as federal, state, and Social Security taxes. Deductions for non-required amounts, such as health and life insurance premiums, union dues, and charitable contributions, are part of your disposable earnings.

Let’s consider an example.

Example: Travis has an outstanding balance on his Chase credit card of $3,000. He stopped making payments on the credit card when his income took a nosedive, and now Chase is suing him for the debt. Travis doesn’t try to resolve the debt before his court date, and Chase wins its lawsuit against him. Now, Chase wants to garnish Travis’s wages. Travis currently earns $1,000 weekly after taxes as a truck driver. Under federal law, Chase can garnish 25% of Travis’s earnings, or $250 weekly, until Travis fully satisfies the debt. It is the lesser of the two options since $1,000 - (30 x $7.25) equals $782.50. In this example, Travis will pay $1,000 monthly from his earnings to Chase until he pays off the $3,000 debt. That huge chunk of income will make it much harder for Travis to afford his other obligations.

It’s important to note that states retain the right to set their own wage garnishment limits as long as they don’t exceed the amounts set forth by the federal government. Some states have more lenient policies toward wage garnishment that allow debtors to retain more of their income or that protect specific sources of income from a creditor’s coffers.

Federal law also protects debtors from wrongful termination by an employer due to wage garnishment. Under 15 USC § 1671, employers cannot terminate a worker because of a single wage garnishment. However, there is no protection from termination for debtors who encounter subsequent garnishments.

You can avoid wage garnishment if you take the right actions

Your creditor can’t garnish your wages unless it wins a debt lawsuit against you. If a creditor decides to sue you, taking action quickly is critical. You’ll want to resolve the debt before it goes to court by repaying it or settling it.

Repaying the debt slams the door on a lawsuit altogether. Your creditor will no longer have grounds to sue, and you can move on without fear of wage garnishment.

If repaying the debt completely before your court date is out of the question, you can arrange a debt settlement with your creditor. In a debt settlement, you offer a lump-sum payment for a portion of the debt. In exchange, your creditor agrees to release you from the remainder of the obligation.

Want to learn more about the debt settlement process? Check out the following video:

Don’t allow creditors to garnish your wages

You’ll want to prevent wage garnishment by acting appropriately to protect yourself. Don’t ignore a debt lawsuit, and try to resolve the debt before your court date. That way, you won’t need to worry about the repercussions of a judgment or wage garnishment.

Is a creditor making your life miserable with a debt lawsuit? SoloSettle can help you settle your debt now, before it’s too late.

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