Garnishment is the attachment of part of an individual’s wages by an employer under a court’s decree for the purpose of paying a creditor. Wage garnishment as a means of legal redress for potentially delinquent or default cases can be traced to Roman times. An individual can be eligible for garnishment in the event of bad loans, failure to pay federal or state taxes, and nonpayment of child support.
Garnishment Laws in Virginia
The federal government has guidelines for wage garnishment under the aegis of the U.S. Department of Labor. These guidelines are applicable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories and possessions. All companies are required to honor wage garnishment orders, which are typically issued by family courts, state agencies or the IRS. Individual states may choose to change these laws to a certain extent so as to make them more appropriate for their socioeconomic context. If the state’s garnishment law stipulates a different amount from the federal law, then the law resulting in the smaller amount being garnished will prevail. The state of Virginia has its own wage garnishment laws.
Garnishment laws in Virginia stipulate a maximum amount that can be deducted from an employee’s salary, and they also prevent the employer from discharging the employee if the wages are garnished. However, the law does not rule out the option of discharging the employee if the wages are garnished to two or three creditors. A voluntary decision by the debtor to have deductions taken is not considered garnishment. The law stipulates that the maximum amount of an individual’s weekly earnings that can be attached be less than 25 percent of earnings or the amount by which it exceeds 30 times the minimum wage. Other exemptions include property (up to $5,000 and an additional $5,000 per dependent), insurance and annuities, retirement benefits (up to $17,500 per year) and public entitlements. For veterans, an additional $2,000 from property is also exempt.
For the purpose of wage calculation, disposable income should be considered instead of gross income--the net pay received by the employee after paying for legal deductions, taxes, state unemployment insurance, or employee retirement-related investments. However, if the employee is paying for voluntary or charitable contributions, union dues, personal insurance premiums, savings or optional retirement plans, then those will not be taken into consideration. Further, the law stipulates that the maximum amount that can be garnished in a time frame be limited.