If the company that I work for said its employees so they are going to begin garnishing our wages, is this legal?

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If the company that I work for said its employees so they are going to begin garnishing our wages, is this legal?

They have begun garnishing my wages because they said they overpaid their workers. Even though they have stated that we are paid hourly, the wages have been inconsistent. Our paychecks often bounce. Now the company is stating that we’ve been overpaid, and have begun garnishing our wages. How can this be legal?

Asked on February 10, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

1) If you have been overpaid--were paid for more hours than you worked; were paid at too high a rate--you would have to repay the overpayment.

2) The company may NOT simply garnish your wages, withhold part of your wages, etc., even if it thinks you owe it money, unless you agreed to let it do so.

3) If the company feels you owe it money and you do not pay it voluntarily, its recourse is to sue you, prove its case, and then get a judgment against you--i.e. a court order that you pay. Unless and until it does this, it cannot make you pay.

4) If you company has not paid you everything you are owed (e.g. it has bounced checks and not made them up), takes money out of your checks improperly, and/or has caused you to incur other costs (e.g. bounced check fees), you could sue the company--or counterclaim against it, if it sues you.

5) Note that if you do not have an employment contract, you are an employee at will and the company may be able to terminate your employment if it feels you are improperly withholding money from it--you need to bear this in mind. You in turn could have a claim against the company if it does this for illegal reasons--e.g. to force you to pay money you do not in fact owe--but that would put you in the position of having to sue it to regain you job and/or get compensation.


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