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, 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, Federal law doesn’t protect you, but state law might. Florida law definitely does.
Penalties Under Federal Law: 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.
Florida Law: Fla. Stat. Sec. 61.12 provides, regarding child support garnishment: "Any disciplinary action against the employee by an employer to whom a writ is issued pursuant to this section solely because such writ is in effect constitutes a contempt of court, and the court may enter such order as it deems just and proper." Under Fla. Stat. Sec. 61.1301, "A person may not discharge, refuse to employ, or take disciplinary action against an employee because of the enforcement of an income deduction order. An employer who violates this subsection is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $250 for the first violation or $500 for any subsequent violation. Penalties shall be paid to the obligee or the IV-D agency, whichever is enforcing the income deduction, if any alimony or child support is owing. If no alimony or child support is owing, the penalty shall be paid to the obligor. An employee may bring a civil action in the courts of this state against an employer who refuses to employ, discharges, or otherwise disciplines an employee because of an income deduction order. The employee is entitled to reinstatement and all wages and benefits lost plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred.
Other 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 on garnishment.
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 an employee-side lawyer in your state to find out about your rights.