A “garnishment” is an order of a court to an employer to withhold a sum of money from an employee's earnings for payment of a debt. Garnishment is an involuntary procedure that is usually conducted when an employee has not paid his or her debts voluntarily. The state of Georgia draws a distinction between garnishments for support obligations and those for other debts.
There are numerous state and federal laws pertaining to garnishment. Where state laws are more restrictive than federal law (i.e., by protecting a greater amount of salary from garnishment), state laws will govern.
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 very real risk of being held personally liable for the entire judgment. The garnishment notice provides instructions for the employer.
Nonattorneys may respond to garnishment orders. Georgia businesses no longer need to have attorneys processing and responding to garnishment orders. Human resources (HR) and payroll employees who are not attorneys are allowed to process the orders. Employers may also use third-party vendors and outside counsel to process the orders.
Exemptions. Benefits from a pension or retirement program are exempt from garnishment until actually paid to the employee. Such pension payments are then subject to the laws regarding maximum garnishments.
Disposable earnings. “Disposable earnings” are that part of a person's wages that remain after deductions required by law, plus any premium for employer-provided group accident and health insurance.