If you've suffered an injury on the job, you might be struggling to pay your bills on time. If you're receiving workers' compensation payments, your checks can't typically be garnished to pay your bills. This doesn't mean you'll be free of garnishments altogether, though, as most other forms of income are subject to wage garnishments.
Limitations on Garnishments
In most states, workers' compensation is considered a public benefit and isn't subject to garnishment, but every state establishes its own laws governing wage garnishments and workers' compensation. Check your state laws if a creditor is threatening to garnish your workers' compensation check, and consider retaining an attorney who specializes in workers' compensation.
Exceptions to the Rule
In some states, certain kinds of debts can be garnished from your workers' compensation checks. In Ohio, for example, consumer creditors such as credit card companies can't garnish your workers' compensation check. Your check can, however, be garnished for back child support and alimony. These types of debts don't require a court order before a garnishment begins.
Informal Workers' Compensation
Some employers ignore workers' compensation laws and find alternative ways to pay workers for job-related injuries. Your boss might, for example, add money to your paycheck or give you money to pay for your treatment and injuries. This money is generally treated as income, so it can be garnished. If this happens to you, the garnishment is subject to state and federal limitations on garnishments.
Garnishing Other Income
Even though your workers' compensation check may be safe, a creditor can still garnish money from your paycheck. Both state and federal laws limit the amount a creditor can garnish. Under federal law, creditors can take up to 25 percent of your disposable income, or they can take the amount of your income that exceeds 30 percent of federal minimum wage -- but only if that amount is less than 25 percent of your disposable income. Some states have more restrictive laws, so consult an attorney or check your state's laws on garnishments.
- Nolo: Ohio Wage Garnishment Law
- Worker's Compensation, Cases and Materials, 6th Edition; Joseph W. Little et al.
- Nolo: If Your Wages are Garnished -- Your Rights
- Garnishment Law: Types of Income That Can Be Garnished
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.