For Most Debts, Wages Cannot be Garnished in Pennsylvania.
Wage garnishment is a process by which someone’s wages are taken (attached) in order to pay for a debt or court judgment. Pennsylvania is unusual, compared to other states, in the protections it offers against wage garnishment. For most debts – including credit card debts, and personal loans, the creditor can not garnish wages as a means of collection.
The protection against wage garnishment ends after the paycheck has been cashed. If, for example, the employee has cashed their paycheck and deposited the money in a bank, a creditor with a court judgment would be allowed to garnish the bank. This would freeze the account, and ultimately result in the creditor getting paid from the money in the bank account.
When Can a Pennsylvania Creditor Garnish Wages?
There are some exceptions to the rule. Pennsylvania does allow wage garnishment for:
● Obligations for support, or arising from a divorce.
● Board for four weeks or less.
● Amounts awarded in a court judgment to a landlord, in a residential lease, after credit has been given for any security deposit. However, the amount which can be garnished can not be more than 10% of net wages, or a sum not to place the debtor’s net income below the poverty level, whichever is less.
● Union Dues.
● Health Insurance Premiums.
● Student Loans, if they are guaranteed by the government (not including private student loans).
● For criminal restitution, costs, fines or bail judgments.
Even if Pennsylvania law permits garnishment, federal law still provides some protection. With the exception of support or tax debts, garnishments cannot exceed 25% of net wages, and a base amount of 30 times the hourly minimum wage (currently $7.25) cannot be garnished in a single week.
Situations Involving Other States
Because other states do not have protections as broad as Pennsylvania, there are a few situations where an out-of-state judgment could be used to garnish wages. To do this, a creditor would need to obtain a judgment in a state which permits wage garnishment, and also serve the garnishment on the employer in that state.
For most consumer debts, the creditor is required to sue in the consumer’s home state (and county). If a person has properly been sued in another state, and later moves to Pennsylvania, the judgment would still be valid. Even if they work in Pennsylvania, if their employer does business in the other state, that state’s rules concerning wage garnishment could then be applied.
CAN A DEBT COLLECTOR THREATEN TO GARNISH WAGES IN PA?
A debt collector cannot threaten to take any action, unless he has the legal right to do so. Doing this would be a violation of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and Pennsylvania’s Consumer Protection Laws.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE THREATENED WITH WAGE GARNISHMENT?
If you are threatened with wage garnishment, you should consult with an attorney, who is experienced in consumer and debt matters. Your lawyer will want to review your overall situation, and may offer several options, including making payment arrangements, offering a lump sum settlement, or filing bankruptcy.