Garnisheed wages – I just hired someone and then got notice that their wages are garnisheed for a $3,200 debt. Should I fire them?

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Garnisheed wages – I just hired someone and then got notice that their wages are garnisheed for a $3,200 debt. Should I fire them?

February 15, 2017

We recently got this question from a consultant friend of ours who found out that a client’s new hire had their wages garnisheed:

“I have a question as I have a client that recently hired somebody and shortly after she started he got notice that her wages are garnisheed to pay off $3,200.00.

“He’s not sure how to handle this and even if he should keep the team member. What would be your recommendations? It has set off the red flags for him, and I am not sure how to handle this or what to recommend.

“Thank you in advance for your help.”

Our answer on Garnisheed Wages:

Garnisheed wages are not necessarily an issue but require more investigation.

Garnishees can come from a lot of different things — unpaid parking tickets might be an example of something causing wages to be garnisheed where there might not be an employment implication.  It could also be a financial dispute with an ex-spouse.  It could also be an unpaid fine for a criminal conviction, which is obviously more concerning.

It is important for the dentist to understand WHY the employee’s wages are being garnisheed, so he or she needs to dig into this, and ultimately make a decision about whether this person represents an unacceptable level of risk to the practice.

Of course, it isn’t a good idea to take the employee’s word for what happened; your client should ask to see the paperwork.

Also, it’s a good time to consider whether the background checking that was done when this person was hired was sufficient.  Were former employers contacted?  Was the applicant tested for drug use? 

If screening done at the time of hiring was lax (and it often is), now is a good time to complete the background checking that should have been done before this person was hired.

Clearly, the garnishee means that the employee is in a precarious financial position — obviously, they don’t have $3,200 available to settle this debt. If this person is a single mom living in a rented apartment, I fully expect there to be financial issues.  However, if this person drives an SUV and lives in an expensive house, the fact that they don’t have $3,200 would really concern me.

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