As of July 1, 2013, California Protects More Wages From Garnishment

On July 1, 2013, California’s wage garnishment law changed to protect more of a debtor’s wages from garnishment. If you earn the minimum wage or close to the minimum wage, California law now protects more of your wages from attachment than does federal law.

What Is Wage Garnishment?

If a creditor sues you in court and wins a money judgment against you, it can take various actions to collect that judgment from you. One of those methods is wage garnishment, where the creditor gets a court order that directs your employer to turn over part of your wages directly to the creditor.

Some creditors, like the IRS and the Department of Education, can garnish your wages without first getting a judgment.

(To learn more about wage garnishment works and how you can object to one, see Nolo’s Wage Garnishment topic area.)

Limits of Wage Garnishment Amounts

Federal law limits the amount that judgment creditors can garnish from your paycheck. States must provide at least as much protection as does federal law, but may provide more if they choose to do so.

In the past, California wage garnishment limits mirrored federal limits. But effective July 1, 2013, California now protects more of your wages than does federal law if you earn the minimum wage or close to the minimum wage.

Here are the new rules.

For any given workweek, creditors are allowed to garnish the lesser of:

  • 25% of your disposable earnings, or
  • the amount by which your weekly disposable earnings exceed 40 times the state hourly minimum wage (which is currently $8.00 per hour, but may increase in 2014).

Disposable earnings are those wages left after your employer has made deductions required by law.

To learn more, and to see a comparison of the federal and California wage garnishment limits, see Nolo’s article California Wage Garnishment Law.