Is Wage Garnishment Legal in Pennsylvania?

Whether you’re in a precarious financial situation or you have plenty of money in the bank, the notion of wage garnishment sends chills down most people’s spines. Just the idea that somebody can order your employer to take some of your hard-earned money and give it to somebody else feels unfair, and that’s why in the state of Pennsylvania wage garnishment can only happen in highly prescribed situations and in very limited amounts.

The most important thing that a Pennsylvania resident needs to know if they are being threatened with wage garnishment is that it can’t happen without your knowing about it. The only way that a creditor can successfully get a wage garnishment order in place is if they’ve sued for payment and obtained a judgment showing that you owe them the money. There are, however, certain exceptions to this rule. These are:

  • If you owe certain types of taxes (federal taxes can be deducted without a court judgment depending upon your dependents and deduction rate; state taxes cannot exceed 10% of your net wages)
  • If you have unpaid, court-ordered child or spousal support in arrears (up to 605 of your disposable earnings, or 50% if you are also supporting a spouse or child who isn’t part of the order)
  • If you have defaulted on student loans (administrative garnishment can be employed by the U.S. Department of Education without garnishment, with limits)
  • If you owe on a final distribution of assets in a divorce
  • If you owe back rent on a residential lease (limited to 10% of net wages)
  • If you owe court-ordered restitution for a criminal matter

With many of these exceptions, if your earnings aren’t above federal poverty guidelines, no garnishment is allowed.

Facing wage garnishment is embarrassing: your employer will be contacted by the garnishing agency and notified of the administrative steps that they need to take in order to be in compliance with the order. Despite the fact that it feels humiliating and may be an irritation for the person in charge of your company’s payroll, it is illegal to fire an employee on the basis of a single wage garnishment. However, if you are in arrears to multiple creditors and your employer is contacted over a second garnishment order, they are then permitted to terminate your employment.

If you need assistance with the threat of wage garnishment or need information on your options, we can help. Contact us today to learn more and set up a time for a consultation.