Writ of Garnishment, a seemingly familiar term that has been heard through the grapevine and usually regarding a former employee experience. Yet, there are significant repercussions, such as liability for debt, that employers need to be aware of.
We first begin by understanding what a Writ of Garnishment is. Essentially, it is an order issued by the court (per the “garnishor”) that procures a lien on the personal property of a debtor whose property is in the possession of a third party/employer (or “garnishee”). In layman’s terms, the court orders debt collection through your available source of income. I.e. Work wages.
So, as an employer, you receive notice of the Writ of Garnishment. What’s the procedure?
For starters, the employer is required to respond to the “garnishor” within 20 days after service of the Writ. (It can be answered by an authorized employee or agent of the business) Things that should be included in the answer are A. whether the garnishee is indebted to the defendant/debtor at the time of the answer, writ, or anytime in between. B. What sum and tangible or intangible personal property of the debtor the employer has in his or her possession or control. C. If the employer knows of an other person indebted to the defendant/debtor, or who may have the property of the debtor in possession or control.
There is also the “good faith doubt” factor. If the employer has an actual doubt towards the reason behind the Writ of Garnishment, they can answer the writ and withhold, up to double, the amount claimed by the “garnishor” until the doubt is clarified. In this process, the employer shall not be liable to the debtor for withholding that amount.
Side Note: The Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) protects employee’s wages from being garnished up to 25% of their earnings or, 30 times the current fed. minimum wage (whichever is less). It also prohibits and employer from terminating or disciplining an employee for their first wage garnishment.
“What happens if an employer doesn’t file an answer to a writ of garnishment?”
If the employer fails to answer as required, then a default will be entered against him/her. Meaning, you’ll be held liable for the amount owed. Don’t do that kids.
“But, what if I incur any costs in the process?”
If there are any costs associated with the process of replying, the court can issue $100 to the employer for attorneys fees if they obtain representation in response to the writ. In the chance that the claim is dismissed or judgement is entered against the “garnishor”, the employer is off the hook and can possibly obtain a judgement for the costs.
Side Note: Florida court allows the employer to collect up to $5 against salary or wages of the debtor to reimburse the employer for administrative costs
Conclusion, if you as an employer receive a writ of garnishment and are unsure of what to do, we highly suggest you retain an attorney you’re comfortable with to walk you through the process. You could be held liable for not answering on time or incorrectly. If you’d like to speak to one of our seasoned attorneys, you can reach out to us via email or call us directly. (786) 837-6787 & firstname.lastname@example.org
*Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to be legal advise. We highly recommend speaking to an attorney if you have any legal concerns. Contacting us through our website does not establish an attorney-client relationship.*