It is a common practice in Georgia for someone who holds a judgment to garnish the debtor’s wages to satisfy the debt. Georgia law allows the garnishment of wages, independent contractor compensation, payments for goods, bank accounts, and any other money that is owed by any person or entity to the debtor. The garnishment statute sets forth a formula for determining how much money can be garnished, depending on whether the money represents wages or some other type of income, and also depending on whether the debt is a consumer debt or a child support obligation. (Generally, a greater percentage of income can be garnished where the obligation is one for child support.) The formula will be addressed in another article at a later date.
Under Georgia law, employees are protected from being terminated on the basis of the fact that their wages have been garnished. (The employee can still be terminated for other nondiscriminatory reasons, including poor performance and lay off.) An employee who has been terminated purely on the basis of a wage garnishment may have a claim against the employer under Georgia law.
In addition, a provision of the Federal Consumer Credit Protection Act protects employees who work anywhere in the United States from being terminated on the basis of a first garnishment. Thus, an employee who has been terminated because his/her wages were garnished on a single occasion may have a claim against the employer under the CCPA. However, federal law provides no protection in the event the employee’s wages are garnished more than once. In that event, the employee will need to look to state law for a remedy, as is discussed above.
The analysis set forth in this article is provided for general understanding only and should not be considered legal advice. Counsel should always be consulted for advice regarding a specific situation.