Employers Liable for Employee Garnishments

When an employer receives a garnishment order, they have a legal obligation to comply with it. Failure to do so can result in severe consequences, including fines, penalties, and potential liability for the unpaid debt. Here are some key responsibilities employers typically have when faced with an employee garnishment:

  1. Notification: Employers must notify the employee of the garnishment and provide them with relevant information, such as the amount being withheld and the reason for the garnishment.
  2. Withholding Wages: The employer must deduct the specified amount from the employee’s wages and remit it to the appropriate creditor or agency as outlined in the garnishment order.
  3. Prioritization: In cases where multiple garnishments are in effect simultaneously, employers must prioritize them according to the applicable laws. Certain types of garnishments may take precedence over others.
  4. Compliance: Employers must comply with any additional requirements outlined in the garnishment order, such as providing periodic reports or responding to inquiries from the creditor or court.


Liability Concerns

While employers have a legal duty to comply with garnishment orders, they may also face liability concerns related to employee garnishments. Here are a few situations where employers could potentially be held liable:

  1. Improper Handling: If an employer fails to properly handle the garnishment process, such as not deducting the correct amount or not remitting payments on time, employers may be held liable for the unpaid debt.
  2. Retaliation Prohibition: Employers are generally prohibited from retaliating against employees due to garnishment actions. Taking adverse actions, such as termination or demotion, based solely on an employee’s garnishment can lead to liability for the employer.
  3. Discrimination: Employers must be cautious to treat all employees fairly and avoid discrimination based on their garnishment status. Discriminatory actions related to garnishments could result in legal consequences for the employer.


Mitigating Liability

To mitigate potential liability associated with employee garnishments, employers should consider the following actions:

  1. Compliance Training: Employers should ensure that relevant staff members, such as payroll administrators or HR personnel, receive training on garnishment laws, procedures, and compliance requirements.
  2. Due Diligence: Conducting regular audits of payroll processes and maintaining accurate records can help ensure that garnishments are handled correctly and in a timely manner.
  3. Confidentiality: Employers should handle garnishments with discretion and maintain the confidentiality of employee financial information. This helps protect the employee’s privacy and reduces the risk of liability.
  4. Legal Counsel: Seeking guidance from legal professionals experienced in employment law and garnishment matters can provide employers with valuable insights and help navigate complex situations.

Employers play a vital role in the garnishment process, as they are responsible for withholding and remitting funds on behalf of employees facing financial obligations. Understanding the legal framework and following the proper procedures is essential to avoid potential liability.

Outsourcing your payroll to a professional payroll bureau ensures you stay compliant with all garnishment withholding regulations.