Q&A with Jennifer Heald Castillo
Wage garnishment affects employers as well as workers
Q: What is wage garnishment?
A: A wage garnishment is a court order directed to an employer to withhold a certain amount of an employee's earnings for payment of a debt to a third-party creditor. Most creditors can't get a wage garnishment order until they have obtained a judgment stating the employee owes them money. Additionally, Oklahoma law limits the amount that can be withheld from an employee's earnings to 25 percent of the employee's disposable earnings for the pay period.
Q: How should an employer process a wage garnishment it receives on an employee?
A: Oklahoma law requires the employer to immediately deliver a copy of the wage garnishment to its employee by hand delivery or by first-class mail to the employee's last known address. After completing the garnishee's answer form and calculating the amount to be garnished, the employer must file a copy of its answer with the court clerk for the district court in which the wage garnishment was issued and deliver a copy to the attorney for the third-party creditor and to the affected employee no later than 10 days after receipt. The employer must then send the amount of the withheld earnings to the attorney for the creditor no later than seven days after the end of each pay period. A copy of the answer should accompany each payment.
Q: How long are wage garnishments in effect?
A: Wage garnishments are in effect until the debt owed by the employee is paid in full, or the expiration of 180 days from the date the wage garnishment was filed with the court.
Q: Is there any potential liability for employers?
A: Yes. Oklahoma law permits creditors to obtain judgments in the amount owed by the employee, plus attorney's fees and costs, against employers who fail to follow the process described above.
Q: Are there any restrictions on job termination of an employee due to wage garnishment?
A: Yes. Under Oklahoma law, an employer can't terminate an employee unless the employee has more than two wage garnishments in a year.