A “garnishment” is an order of a court to an employer (the garnishee) to withhold a sum of money from an employee's earnings for payment of a debt. The District of Columbia draws a distinction between garnishments for support obligations and those for other debts.
There are numerous district and federal laws pertaining to garnishment. Where district laws are more restrictive than federal law (i.e., by protecting a greater amount of salary from garnishment), district laws will govern. District of Columbia laws on garnishments for debts other than support are provided in DC Code Sec. 16-571 through Sec. 16-584. Garnishments for support debts are covered in DC Code Sec. 46-207et seq.
Garnishment vs. assignment of wages. Garnishment and assignment of wages are both methods of deducting money from an employee's salary to repay his or her debts. Garnishment is an involuntary procedure that is usually conducted when an employee has not paid his or her debts voluntarily. Assignment of wages is prohibited in the District of Columbia.
Respond promptly. An employer that is served with a wage garnishment must respond promptly to the notice and any other court papers regarding garnishment. Employers failing to respond to a notice or in any way ignoring a garnishment run the risk of being held personally liable for the entire judgment.