Every once in awhile someone comes to me having been fired right after a court issues a garnishment order against them for child support (or another debt). This is a violation of both federal and many state’s laws.
Consumer Credit Protection Act: This law limits the amounts that can be garnished and sets out the procedures for garnishing wages for any debt. Many employers think this is a pain in the neck, so they forget that the law also prohibits employers for firing an employee if they’re garnished for a single debt. If you get a second garnishment, the law doesn’t protect you, so try to avoid multiple garnishments if you can.
Penalties: If your employer fires you after one garnishment, you can get a court order requiring them to reinstate your job, plus back pay. The Department of Labor can sue for you. Employers who willfully violate the law against retaliation can be prosecuted criminally and fined up to $1,000, or imprisoned for not more than one year, or both.
State laws: If the states provide for a lesser amount to be garnished, or provide protection for garnishment of more than one debt, the state laws apply. That means employers need to be aware of the protections their state applies to employees. Some states provide protections against discharge for a child support garnishment, regardless of whether or not there were prior garnishments for other debts. Here’s a list of some state laws’ limits on the amount that can be garnished, with phone numbers for agencies so you can check about the anti-retaliation provisions.
Yes, dealing with an employee’s wage garnishment is a pain. But if you fire them just because you don’t like being inconvenienced, you can end up going to jail over it (and still have them back as an employee). If you were fired right after a garnishment, contact a lawyer in your state to find out about your rights.