Update on Wage Garnishment Drafting Committee

The Drafting Committee on a Wage Garnishment Act held its last in-person meeting on February 19-20 in Washington, D.C., and we made great progress. We expect to have an outstanding act to present for a final reading this summer in Stowe.

One of our goals has been to provide employees whose wages are about to be garnished with a notification that clearly explains their options, and to this end we have engaged the services of The Plain Language Group and its principal, Dr. Deborah Bosley. We were able to do this thanks to the generosity of the Uniform Law Foundation, the ULC itself, and the American Payroll Association. Dr. Bosley has helped us with the language and formatting of the notification, and she will soon begin testing it with a panel of individuals who meet the characteristics of our target group. An employee who receives the notification will have at least 30 days to take action before the employer begins making deductions from wages.

Last fall, the committee concluded that the protections provided to employees by the act would be of limited utility if they were not extended to bank accounts in which employees deposit their wages. Under the act (and federal law), a certain amount of wages is exempt from garnishment at the employer level so that the employee will have money to live on and an incentive to keep working. The fact that the exempt portion can be reached by garnishment if it is deposited in a bank account undermines our policies, and we have learned that many employees avoid banks because of this risk. Accordingly, we sought and received an expansion of our charge so that we can draft provisions to make already garnished wages exempt from bank garnishment. The new provisions are modeled on provisions of federal law protecting certain federal benefits from bank garnishment, and because banks are already familiar with these provisions we have thus far received positive responses from the banking community.

We will be continuing our efforts throughout the spring and will probably need to hold at least one telephone conference to discuss revised provisions resulting from our discussion at the recent meeting. We see no serious roadblocks ahead, however, and are confident that our act will constitute a great improvement in the law for all concerned – employers, employees, creditors, and the court system itself. We look forward to presenting our work to you at Stowe. The current draft of the Wage Garnishment Act is posted on the ULC website and is available here.

 William H. Henning, Chair, Drafting Committee on a Wage Garnishment Act

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Update on Wage Garnishment Drafting Committee

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