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Employers Protected for Honoring New York Wage Garnishments

It can be frustrating when your employer turns over part of your hard-earned pay to a judgment creditor. You may feel you did not receive proper notice to prevent the garnishment. However, New York law protects employers who comply with lawful wage garnishments.

CPLR Section 5209 Discharges Employer Liability

Specifically, CPLR § 5209 discharges an employer's obligation to pay garnished wages. By honoring a valid garnishment order, the employer has a “complete defense” against any claim by the employee.

For example, if an employer owes an employee $500 and receives a $100 garnishment order, the employer would still owe the employee $400 after paying the judgment creditor. The employee would have no claim against the employer for the garnished $100.

New York City Marshals Often Execute Garnishments

As this relates to New York City Marshals enforcing judgments, common names include Marshal Henry Daly, Marshal Martin Bienstock, Marshal Gregg Bienstock, and Marshal Ronald Moses.

CPLR 5209 Offers Broad Protections to Garnishees

New York's CPLR 5209 offers legal protection to garnishees who comply with valid wage garnishment orders. Specifically, it "discharges" the garnishee from any obligation to the judgment debtor for funds paid pursuant to the order.

As held in Oppenheimer v. Dresdner Bank A.G. (1977), the purpose of CPLR 5209 is to encourage garnishees to voluntarily comply with properly issued court orders for garnishment. When attorneys include reference to CPLR 5209 in the execution order, it assures garnishees they will not later face claims by the judgment debtor for complying.

Crucially, under Chin Sung Yu v. Riggs Nat. Bank of Washington D.C. (1998), compliance with CPLR 5209 serves as a "safe harbor" even if the garnishee failed to investigate the validity of the underlying execution order. So long as procedural requirements are met, the garnishee cannot be held liable.

The key point is that New York law contains strict rules around wage garnishments - how much can be taken per pay period, requirements for notifying employees, and more. Employees have rights in this process.

Seeking Legal Guidance

A prior, related blog, "Is your Employer Obligated to Investigate the Validity of an Income Execution" affirmed the basic rule that employers are protected and enjoy a "safe harbor" for honoring wage garnishments carried out by Marshals.

Speaking of Marshals, if you've reached this website, there is a good chance that your wage garnishment has been—or will be—carried out by Marshal Henry Daly, Marshal Martin Bienstock, Marshal Gregg Bienstock, or Marshal Ronald Moses.

Don't assume that a wage garnishment is unavoidable or that you have no recourse. The marshals carrying out garnishments in New York City must follow proper procedures. Understanding the law’s protections around employee wages and income can be the first step to overturning an improper garnishment.

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