A garnishment is a court order to an employer to withhold a sum of money from an employee's earnings for payment of a debt. The state of Alabama has special laws applicable to garnishments for the support of an employee's dependents and a general garnishment law for all other debts (AL Stat. Sec. 30-3-61et seq.; Sec. 30-3A-502; Sec. 6-6-393).
State vs. federal law. There are numerous state and federal provisions pertaining to garnishment. The federal requirements apply to organizations that are engaged in “interstate commerce.” Since this term has been defined to include all but the smallest business organizations, virtually all employers are subject to both state and federal requirements. If there is a conflict, the employer must follow the law that is more protective of the employee (i.e., which shelters a greater part of his or her wages from garnishment).
Garnishment and wage assignment. Garnishment and assignment of wages are both methods of deducting money from an employee's salary to repay his or her debts. An assignment of wages is generally a voluntary procedure in which the employee agrees to the deduction, while garnishment is an involuntary procedure that is usually applied because the employee has not paid the debt voluntarily.