You may not be surprised to know that under California law, if a creditor obtains a judgment against you for unpaid debt, and you fail to pay the judgment according to its terms, then the creditor can seek to enforce the judgment by garnishing your wages and filing liens against your property, among other remedies.
What you may not know is that California law also allows your employer to discharge you if they are required to garnish your wages and the garnishment presents a disruption to or burden on the employer. To make matters worse, your employer can fire you for misconduct, meaning you will be prevented from collecting unemployment benefits if the following conditions are met:
- Your employer has previously been required to garnish your wages pursuant to a different court order for an outstanding debt you owe(d) in a different case;
- Your employer previously warned you of its policies, procedures and intended actions/consequences it would take if were forced to garnish your wages (again) in the future;
- You knew, or had reason to believe, that a future garnishment was probable or possible on a different debt owed to a creditor; and,
- You have not made a good faith attempt to cover your financial obligations, or you did, but failed to take reasonable actions that could have prevented the garnishment of your wages for another judgment.
This means, first and foremost, that you cannot be discharged for misconduct the first time your employer has to garnish your wages pursuant to a court judgment. This does not, however, mean that you cannot be fired if garnishment present an undue burden on your employer.
Second, you cannot be discharged for misconduct unless your employer warned you of the possible consequences (being fired) of having to garnish your wages again.
Third, you must have been aware that another garnishment action was possible. You will be put on notice of this fact, at the very least, if a creditor has been contacting you to pay the debt.
Finally, if you have taken all reasonable steps to avoid the garnishment action but could not avoid it, you cannot be terminated for misconduct. Concrete proof that, despite your best efforts, you were unable to afford creditor payments will likely be sufficient to escape being fired for misconduct.
Hopefully, you avoid the possibility of having even one garnishment action against you by immediately contacting a qualified debtors’ rights attorney, like those at Fitzgerald Campbell, if you have been sued for a debt or been threatened with a garnishment action. Our attorneys have decades of experience handling all types of debt defense cases, and we are here to help you!