Q. We recently received a court order to garnish the wages of an employee who has failed to repay a student loan. I thought that the garnishment of an employee’s wages in Texas was prohibited by law. Is that no longer true?
A. Although garnishment is not allowed in Texas for most debts, this rule does not apply in certain circumstances—such as with student loans.
Wage garnishment is a legal procedure in which a creditor asks a court to order a debtor’s employer to turn over part of the debtor’s wages directly to the creditor.
The Texas Constitution generally prohibits wage garnishment, but there are two important exceptions: to enforce the repayment of government-backed student loans and the payment of court-ordered child support.
A provision of the 1991 Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act supersedes state law and permits garnishment of defaulting student loan debtors’ wages. Up to 10% of disposable earnings may be withheld.
Employers must also comply with valid withholding orders for child support. Garnishment is available to enforce both current child support payments and amounts in arrears. At most, 50% of the employee’s disposable earnings may be withheld. An employer that fails to comply is liable to the person seeking to enforce the order for the amount not withheld, as well as attorneys’ fees and court costs. The employer may also be fined up to $200 each time it does not properly withhold.
Employers may not use a wage garnishment as grounds for firing or disciplining an employee.
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