Can my manager ask me if I am in debt?

Ann Kiernan replies:

Normally, I would say it’s none of her business. But if your wages have been garnished because you owe child support, unpaid taxes, or credit card debt, now your personal finances have become tangled up with the payroll department.

When an employee fails to repay a debt, a court order, called a wage garnishment or wage attachment, can require the employer to withhold a portion of the employee’s wages (generally, up to 25% of take-home pay) and forward it to the creditor every payday until the debt is paid off. It’s a pain in the neck for payroll, but if the employer does not comply, the employer can be held liable for the employee’s debt!

While federal law says that you can’t be fired because of one wage garnishment, employers are allowed to counsel employees on managing their personal finances through financial wellness education and credit counseling. Good luck.

Posted 11-14-2018

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.