Thursday, March 01, 2007

Wage Garnishments and the Employer's Duties

Question: I am in California and I just received a wage garnishment for one of my employees. What are my duties?

Answer: When the Sheriff's Department serves an Earnings Withholding Order ("EWO") on an employer, it will contain detailed instructions on how to proceed. If the employee works for you, you must give the employee a copy of the EWO as well as the Employee Instructions within 10 days after receiving the EWQ.

You were also provide with a document called an Employer's Return. You must complete this form and mail it the Sheriff's Department within 15 days after receiving the EWO, whether or not the employee works for you.

If the employee still works for you and there are no other wage garnishments in place, you must begin withholding money from the employee's paycheck. Count 10 calendar days from the date when you received the EWO. If your employee’s pay period ends before the tenth day, do not withhold earnings payable for that pay period. You should withhold from earnings that are payable for any pay period ending on or after that tenth day. You must also continue withholding for all pay periods until you withhold the amount due.

The Employer's Instructions will tell you how to calculate the amount of money to be withheld form each paycheck. You must pay the money to the Sheriff's Department by the 15th of the next month after each payday. Be sure to mark each check with the case number, the Sheriff's file number, and the employee's name so the money will be applied to the correct account.

You should continue to withhold money form the employees patch until you receive a written notice form the Sheriff; (2) receive an EWO of higher priority (i.e. for child support); or (3) a court order terminating the EWO such as a bankruptcy filing.

About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.

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