Overview: Garnishments

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Garnishments Defined

A garnishment is a legal order to withhold a specified sum from an employee's wages to satisfy a debt or fulfill a court order. Depending upon the agency that initiates the garnishment, there are a number of different words that also may be used to refer to withholding an employee's wages. For example:

  • "Levy" is used by the Federal Government.
  • "Earnings Withholding Order" is used by the State of California.
  • "Wage Assignment" is used by the Sheriff's Department, Child Support Agencies, District Attorney, and Family Support Divisions.
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Stanford's Response to a Garnishment Order

Employee Notification

  • Upon receipt of a garnishment order, Payroll will notify the employee before beginning to garnish wages. Payroll will send the employee copies of all required paperwork, and alert him/her about when the garnishment will begin.
Important Note:  Stanford employees should never sign or accept garnishment orders from outside Processors. If approached, employees should direct Processors to the University Payments Office (formerly University Cashier's Office) located at 459 Lagunita Drive, Tresidder Memorial Union Suite 7, Stanford, CA 94305.

Payroll Deductions

  • After the required waiting period (as defined in the garnishment order) has been observed, Payroll is required to deduct a portion of the employee's salary earned from future paychecks until the terms of the garnishment order have been satisfied (i.e. the debt has been paid) or the garnishment has been withdrawn.
  • The terms of the garnishment (i.e., the amount to be withheld each pay period) is defined by the taxing agency or firm / person named as plaintiff in the order. Only the issuer of the garnishment has legal authority to modify payment terms or withdraw the garnishment order.
  • Payroll also deducts an additional administrative fee of $1 per garnishment per pay period on top of the garnishment
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Recommended Actions for Employees Receiving Garnishment Orders

An employee who receives a garnishment order should do the following:

  • Carefully read all garnishment documentation received from Payroll upon receipt.
  • As needed, contact the appropriate agency or an attorney to request alternative arrangements.
  • Promptly respond to Federal and State tax garnishments by:
    • Completing the Statement of Exemptions form (Part 4 and 5) included in the garnishment documentation received from Payroll. This statement confirms the number of the employee's dependents, which determines the amount of each paycheck each pay period that will be exempt from garnishment.

    • Caution:  If Payroll does not receive the Statement of Exemptions form, the employee will receive the default exemption specified by the IRS, which is "single -- with one exemption." This exemption would result in the maximum amount of garnishment to be taken from each paycheck each pay period. By completing the form, the employee can receive the exempted amount that as determined by the number of the employee's direct dependents.

    • Contact the IRS to pursue alternate payment plan.
  • Obtain a written release from the agency when the terms of the garnishment order have been satisfied (i.e., the debt has been paid in full). The agency will contact Stanford when the terms of the garnishment have been satisfied, but it may not happen in a timely manner.
    • Send the written release to Payroll. This will ensure timely discontinuation of the deductions from the employee's paycheck. Payroll will cease deductions with the first paycheck issued after receipt of the written release.
  • Keep all copies of a garnishment for at least seven years.
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To request duplicate copies of a garnishment order, or to privately discuss your garnishment, employees should:

  • Submit a HelpSU ticket to Payroll (Category Financial Support, and Request Type Payroll). The Garnishment Supervisor in the Payroll Department will contact the employee, or
  • Call the Payroll Garnishment Supervisor directly at 650-723-7561.
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