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Single wage garnishments protected under Title III

Missouri workers can sometimes find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having their wages garnished by their employers in order to settle a debt. Garnishments can be embarrassing for the worker and involve extra paperwork for the company, which is why employers typically do not like handling wage garnishments.

However, they are not permitted to terminate an employee due to wage garnishment. The Consumer Credit Protection Act's Title III provides protection for employees whose wages are being garnished for a single debt while also limiting the amount allowed to be garnished each pay period.

The employer must legally withhold a certain percentage of a worker's wages to settle a debt in a court-ordered garnishment or tax collection effort. No matter how many levies or proceedings have been filed to collect this debt, Title III disallows the company from firing their employee over this debt. However, no protections exist if additional garnishments are forthcoming, and the employee may be discharged.

The amount that may be legally garnished in a single pay period is the lesser of 25 percent of the worker's disposable earnings or the sum by which the disposable earnings exceed the federal minimum wage by 30 times.

A greater amount may be garnished in order to satisfy delinquent child support payments, state or federal taxes or a bankruptcy. Title III permits up to one-half of the worker's disposable earnings garnished for child support in cases where the worker is supporting a spouse or another child. Sixty percent is allowed garnished under Title III if the worker has no dependents to support. When support payments have been in arrears longer than 12 weeks, an additional five percent is allowed to be garnished.

If the employer violates provisions of Title III, the worker may seek reinstatement, back wages and have any improperly garnished payments restored. A Missouri employment law attorney can advise workers on how to proceed with a claim.

Source: Department of Labor, "Wage Garnishment" Dec. 11, 2014

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