Can Your Employer Fire You Due to Wage Garnishment?
Wrongful termination can come in many forms. While most people think of wrongful termination in terms of retaliation against whistleblowers or discrimination based on race or some other protected class, there are additional provisions under federal and Florida state law that restrict when and why an employer may terminate an employee. For example, if your employer terminates you because your wages are ordered garnished in connection with a child support order, you may have legal recourse.
Why would my employer terminate me for having my wages garnished?
Garnishment involves withholding a portion of the employee’s paycheck. Garnishment can be used to repay an outstanding debt to credit card companies, banks, other lenders, or the government, including for court judgments. There is nothing inherently damaging to employers as a result of your wages being garnished; they do not end up paying more in wages or in taxes, for example.
However, employers may see a garnishment as evidence that you are not financially reliable or that your financial situation will interfere with your job performance. Employers may also have to deal with additional administrative hurdles in doling out your paycheck as a result of the garnishment. Because Florida is an at-will employment state, employers may decide to terminate you as a preemptive measure. Under federal and state law, they may not.
Title III of the federal Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) allows an employee’s wages to be garnished in order to pay off a debt. The CCPA limits the amount of your wages that may be garnished and otherwise sets procedures for how garnishment can take place. The CCPA explicitly prohibits an employer from firing an employee based on a single garnishment. If your employer terminates you after a garnishment is imposed, you can seek a court order reinstating your job and awarding you back pay. Moreover, employers who willfully violate the law against retaliation can be prosecuted criminally and subjected to a fine or imprisonment for up to one year.
The CCPA only restricts termination based on a single garnishment, as do many state laws. In those jurisdictions, if you have multiple garnishments against you, then your employer may have grounds for termination. Florida law, however, goes further. Fla. Stat. Sections 61.12 and 61.1301 provide for court-ordered wage garnishment specifically for child support or alimony. The sections also state that an employer may not take “any disciplinary action” against an employee based on such a wage garnishment order, and that doing so may subject the employer to an order of contempt. Section 61.1301 imposes a civil penalty of $250 to $500 for an employer who violates the law, and authorizes employees to sue the employer for “reinstatement and all wages and benefits lost plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred.” These sections are not limited to a single wage garnishment order and instead protect employees against termination regardless of the number of child support or alimony garnishment orders.
Free Consultation With Marion County Wrongful Termination Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we have almost twenty years of experience representing employees who have been the victims of retaliation and wrongful termination. If you have been subjected to wrongful termination or retaliation at work or have questions about your rights as an employee, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Marion County, Florida employment discrimination attorneys. Our employee rights law firm takes employment retaliation and wrongful cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.