The Federal Wage Garnishment Law, American Consumer Credit Protection Act's Title 3 (CCPA)
This web page provides general information concerning the amount that may be withheld from a person's earnings under the American Consumer Credit (CCPA) and the law's protection from termination because of garnishment for any single debt.
What is a wage garnishment? A wage garnishment is any legal or equitable procedure through which some portion of a person's earnings is required to be withheld by an employer for the payment of a debt. Most garnishments are made by court order. Other types of legal or equitable procedures for garnishment include IRS or state tax collection agency levies for unpaid taxes and federal agency administrative garnishments for non-tax debts owed the federal government.
Wage garnishments do not include voluntary wage assignments—that is, situations in which employees voluntarily agree that their employers may turn over some specified amount of their earnings to a creditor or creditors.
Which federal law regulates wage garnishment? Title III of the American Consumer Credit (CCPA) limits the amount of an employee's earnings that may be garnished and protects an employee from being fired if pay is garnished for only one debt. Title III is administered by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment Standards Administration. The Wage and Hour Division has no other authority with regard to garnishments.
Questions over issues other than the amount being garnished or termination should be referred to the court or agency initiating the withholding action. For example, questions regarding the priority given to certain garnishments over others are not matters covered by Title III and may be referred to the court or agency initiating the garnishment action.
To whom does the law apply? The American Consumer Credit (CCPA) law protects everyone receiving personal earnings, i.e., wages, salaries, commissions, bonuses, or other income—including earnings from a pension or retirement program. Tips are generally not considered earnings for the purposes of the wage garnishment law.
The American Consumer Credit (CCPA) law applies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories and possessions.
What is the protection against discharge when wages are garnished? The American Consumer Credit (CCPA) prohibits an employer from firing an employee whose earnings are subject to garnishment for any one debt, regardless of the number of levies made or proceedings brought to collect that debt, because of the single garnishment. The American Consumer Credit (CCPA) does not prohibit discharge because an employee's earnings are separately garnished for two or more debts. Where to Obtain Additional Information United States Department of Labor (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) (Revised July 2009) (PDF).
For additional information, visit DOL Wage and Hour Division Website: and/or call our toll-free information and helpline, available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in your time zone, 1-866-4-USWAGE (1-866-487-9243).