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When Employee’s Personal Problems Could Become Yours – Avoiding Liability of Garnishments

Authored by attorney Shalanda N. Franklin

As an employer, you either have received, or will receive, a garnishment summons concerning an employee.  A Virginia garnishment summons commands an employer to withhold money from the employee’s paycheck to pay a judgment entered against the employee.  On occasions, an employer inadvertently may fail to properly respond to a garnishment summons because of inexperience or failure to properly supervise the garnishment.  When that occurs, a court could enter a judgment against the employer making the employer personally responsible for paying the judgment, in addition to the employee. 

But there are things an employer can do to ensure that a garnishment summons doesn’t fall into the abyss:

First, designate one or two people at location to accept garnishment summons and instruct all other employees that they should not to accept any summons on behalf of the company.  In Virginia, summons can be served on officers of a corporation, a member or manager of a limited liability company, or the managing employee at the business location.  

Second, establish a procedure for processing garnishments.   Garnishments are effective the moment they are received until the first hearing date.  It best to keep a log of each garnishment summons received.  The log should note the name of the employee, the date the garnishment was received, the amount of the garnishment, the amount withheld from each paycheck according to the withholding guidelines for wages, and the first hearing date. The log should be reviewed each time the employee is paid. 

Third, file a written answer or the pay the withheld wages to the court before the first hearing date.

Fourth, contact your attorney immediately if you have any questions regarding a garnishment summons. 

Having a policy in place that incorporates these steps can help your organization to avoid incurring liability for your employee’s personal matters.

These articles are meant to bring awareness to these topics and are not intended to be used as legal advice.


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