WASHINGTON: Wage garnishments for consumer debt back in force
The temporary moratorium on garnishment of wages for consumer debts imposed by Washington Governor Jay Inslee's Proclamation 20-49 ended on May 27, 2020, at 11:59 p.m. Employers should again withhold under writs of garnishment for consumer debt beginning with wages earned on May 28, 2020.
As we previously reported, the governor issued the temporary moratorium on April 14, 2020, to cushion the financial impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. That order initially was set to expire on May 14, but was extended twice (by Proclamation 20-49.1, which expired on May 21 and Proclamation 20-49.2, which expired on May 27). Although the moratorium against garnishment of wages has ended, it’s still in effect for creditors who seek to garnish a worker’s bank account (Proclamations 20-49.3 and 20-49.4, set to expire on June 17, 2020).
Tips For Employers: As we previously reported, the order stopped all withholding from wages for consumer debt garnishments while the moratorium was in place. However, it didn’t invalidate those writs; it simply prevented any action on them during the moratorium period.
If you were withholding under any writ of garnishment for consumer debt before April 14 and that writ still remains valid on May 28, you should withhold wages for any remainder of the writ’s 60-day validity period. In Washington, a writ is valid from the date you receive it through the last payroll period ending on or before the end of the 60-calendar-day period after the writ took effect. If, on April 14, you had been withholding under a writ of garnishment for consumer debt that expired during the moratorium period, you should now send the creditor the Second Answer and wait for their Judgment on Answer and Order to Pay.
Don’t forget Washington’s “stacking writs” rule. If you hold multiple writs for the same worker, they will take effect as usual (through the last payroll period ending within the next 60 calendar days after taking effect), in the order received as prior writs expire. If you have additional questions, reach out to your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney.