Wieckowski bill to lower wage garnishment rates on minimum wage workers takes effect tomorrow

SB 501 will help low-income workers by creating a tiered garnishment rate and honoring local wage ordinances

June 30, 2016

Sacramento ­– A new law by Senator Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) to lower the amount of money that can be garnished from low-income workers’ paychecks goes into effect tomorrow, July 1, 2016.  Governor Brown signed SB 501 last October.

“By establishing a more reasonable approach to wage garnishment that allows low-income workers to pay off their debts but still keep more of their paychecks, families can avoid going deeper into debt,” said Wieckowski, a member of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee.  “This law honors local minimum wage ordinances to avoid instances where 100 percent of a person’s wages above the minimum wage is garnished.”

Current law sets the garnishment limit at the lesser of 25 percent of a worker’s post-tax earnings or any income that exceeds the state minimum wage.  This results in some workers only making the minimum wage and losing the rest of their income to garnishment. Workers in cities with higher minimum wages than the state level also don’t receive the benefits of those local ordinances passed by voters.

Wieckowski’s SB 501 creates a tiered rate that gradually increases how much is repaid by workers as their income rises. 

“This law will make a real difference to the many Californians who live on the financial edge,” said Ted Mermin of the East Bay Community Law Center.  “The new law will make sure they get to keep a little bit more of their paycheck every week.”

The new law is also supported by Attorney General Kamala Harris, state Treasurer John Chiang, Western Center on Law and Poverty, California Labor Federation, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of California, California Employment Lawyers Association, Greenlining Institute and many other statewide organizations.    

Senator Wieckowski’s district includes southern Alameda County and northeast Santa Clara County.