D.C. Wage Garnishment Law

D.C. Code §§ 16-571 – 584

§ 16-571. Definitions.

For purposes of this subchapter –

(1) The term “wages” means compensation paid or payable for personal services whether denominated as wages, salary, commission, bonus, or otherwise, and includes periodic payments pursuant to a pension or retirement program.

(2) The term “disposable wages” means that part of the earnings of any individual remaining after the deduction from those earnings of any amounts required by law to be withheld.

(3) The term “garnishment” means any legal or equitable procedure through which the wages of any individual are required to be withheld for payment of any debt.

§ 16-572. Attachment of wages; percentage limitations; priority of attachments.

Notwithstanding any other provision of subchapter II of this chapter, where an attachment is levied upon wages due a judgment debtor from an employer-garnishee, the attachment shall become a lien and a continuing levy upon the gross wages due or to become due to the judgment debtor for the amount specified in the attachment to the extent of:

(1) 25 per centum of his disposable wages that week, or

(2) the amount by which his disposable wages for that week exceed thirty times the federal minimum hourly wage prescribed by section 6(a)(1) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 206) in effect at the time the wages are payable, whichever is less.

In the case of wages for any pay period other than a week, the Mayor of the District of Columbia shall by regulation prescribe a multiple of the federal minimum hourly wage equivalent in effect to that set forth in paragraph (2). The levy shall be a continuing levy until the judgment, interest, and costs thereof are fully satisfied and paid, and in no event may moneys be withheld, by the employer-garnishee from the judgment debtor, in amounts greater than those prescribed by this section. Only one attachment upon the wages of a judgment debtor may be satisfied at one time. Where more than one attachment is issued upon the wages of the same judgment debtor and served upon the same employer-garnishee, the attachment first delivered to the marshal shall have priority, and all subsequent attachments shall be satisfied in the order of priority set forth in section 16-507.

§ 16-573. Employer’s duty to withhold and make payments; percentage.

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, an employer upon whom an attachment is served, and who:

(1) at the time is indebted for wages to an employee who is the judgment debtor named in the attachment; or

(2) becomes so indebted to the judgment debtor in the future—

shall, while the attachment remains a lien upon such indebtedness, withhold and pay to the judgment creditor, or his legal representative, within 15 days after the close of the last pay period of the judgment debtor ending in each calendar month, that percentage of the gross wages payable to the judgment debtor for the pay period or periods ending in such calendar month to which the judgment creditor is entitled under the terms of this section until the attachment is wholly satisfied.

(b) Upon written notice of any court proceeding attacking the attachment or the judgment on which it is based, the employer shall make no further payments to the judgment creditor or his legal representative until receipt of an order of court terminating the proceedings; except that, in the case of child support judgments, the employer shall continue to withhold the payments from the judgment debtor until receipt of an order of the court terminating the withholding.

(c) Any payments made by an employer-garnishee in conformity with this section shall be a discharge of the liability of the employer to the judgment debtor to the extent of the payment.

(d) Under this section the employer-garnishee shall not withhold or pay over more than 10 per centum of the gross wages payable to the judgment debtor for any pay period ending in any calendar month until the total amount of gross wages paid or payable to the judgment debtor for all pay periods ending in such calendar month equals $200, nor more than 20 per centum of the gross wages in excess of $200 payable to the judgment debtor for any pay period ending in any calendar month until the total amount of gross wages paid or payable to the judgment debtor for all pay periods ending in such calendar month equals $500.

§ 16-574. Judgment creditor to file receipts, in court, of amount collected.

(a) The judgment creditor shall:

(1) file with the clerk of the court, every three months after the serving of an attachment upon an employer-garnishee, a receipt showing the amount received and the balance due under the attachment as of the date of filing;

(2) file a final receipt with the court and furnish a copy thereof to the employee-garnishee; and

(3) obtain a vacation of the attachment within 20 days after the attachment has been satisfied.

(b) If the judgment creditor fails to file any of the receipts prescribed by subsection (a) of this section, an interested party may move the court to compel the defaulting judgment creditor to appear in court and make an accounting forthwith. The court may, in its discretion, enter judgment for any damages, including a reasonable attorney’s fee suffered by, and tax costs in favor of, the party filing the motion to compel the accounting.

§ 16-575. Judgment against employer-garnishee for failure to pay percentages.

If the employer-garnishee fails to pay to the judgment creditor the percentages prescribed in this subchapter of the wages which become payable to the judgment debtor for any pay period, judgment shall be entered against him for an amount equal to the percentages with respect to which the failure occurs.

§ 16-576. Lapse of attachment upon resignation or dismissal of employee.

If a judgment debtor resigns or is dismissed from his employment while an attachment upon his wages is wholly or partly unsatisfied, the attachment shall lapse and no further deduction may be made thereon unless the judgment debtor is reinstated or reemployed within 90 days after the resignation or dismissal.

§ 16-577. Applicability of per centum limitations to judgment for support.

The per centum limitations prescribed by section 16-572 do not apply in the case of execution upon a judgment, order, or decree of any court of the District of Columbia for the payment of any sum for the support or maintenance of a person’s spouse, or former spouse, or children, and any such execution, judgment, order, or decree shall, in the discretion of the court, have priority over any other execution which is subject to the provisions of this subchapter. In the case of execution upon such a judgment, order, or decree for the payment of such sum for support or maintenance, the limitation shall be 50 per centum of the gross wages due or to become due to any such person for the pay period or periods ending in any calendar month.

§ 16-578. Superior Court judgments; lapse; validity.

An attachment issued by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia upon a judgment of that court duly filed and recorded, and levied within twelve years from the date of the judgment upon the wages due or to become due to the judgment debtor from the employer garnishee, shall not lapse or become invalid prior to complete satisfaction solely by reason of the expiration of the period of limitation set forth in section 15-101.

§ 16-579. Payments by employer-garnishee where employee has no salary or salary inadequate for services rendered.

Where the judgment debtor claims or is proved to be rendering services to or employed by a relative or other person or by a corporation owned or controlled by a relative or other person, without salary or compensation, or at a salary or compensation so inadequate as to satisfy the court that the salary or compensation is merely colorable and designed to defraud or impede the creditors of the debtor, the court may direct the employer-garnishee to make payments on account of the judgment, in installments, based upon a reasonable value of the services rendered by the judgment debtor under his employment or upon the debtor’s then earning ability.

§ 16-580. Quashing attachment where judgment obtained to hinder just claims.

Where an attachment levied under this subchapter is based upon a judgment obtained by default or consent without a trial upon the merits, the court, upon motion of an interested person, may quash the attachment upon satisfactory proof that the judgment was obtained without just cause and solely for the purpose of preventing or delaying the satisfaction of just claims.

§ 16-581. Rules of procedure.

The judges of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia shall establish such rules of procedure for their respective courts as may be necessary to effectuate the purposes of this subchapter.

§ 16-582. Attachments to which this subchapter is applicable.

This subchapter applies only with respect to attachments upon wages, as defined by section 16-571, issued on or after 60 days from August 4, 1959.

§ 16-583. No garnishment before judgment.

(a) Except as otherwise provided in the District of Columbia Child Support Enforcement Amendment Act of 1985 or as provided in the D.C. Official Code, section 16-916, before entry of a judgment in an action against a debtor, the creditor may not obtain an interest in any property of the debtor by attachment, garnishment, or like proceedings.

(b) The holder who is served an order of withholding under this subchapter may deduct and retain from the obligor’s earnings or other income an additional $2.00 over the withholding amount for expenses incurred as a result of the withholding.

§ 16-584. No discharge from employment for garnishment.

No employer shall discharge an employee for the reason that a creditor of the employee has subjected or attempted to subject unpaid earnings of the employee to garnishment or like proceedings directed to the employer for the purpose of paying a judgment.

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