New Employment Laws for 2012: Earnings Withholding Orders

Another new employment law going into effect this year is Assembly Bill 1388 (AB 1388), which was sponsored by Assembly member Bob Wieckowski. AB 1388 amends a loophole in collections law that disallowed debtors from filing claims of exemption from garnishments that stem from medical bills. “This leads to the perverse situation in which someone who runs up a huge gambling debt at a casino can escape having his wages garnished, but a debtor who is taken to the ER after a car accident could lose 25 percent of her wages until the medical bill is paid,” Wieckowski said in a May 2011 press release. “This is especially cruel because medical debts are often the least voluntary of all debts: no one chooses to fall ill.”

AB 1388 will allow courts to grant a judgment debtor’s claim of exemption from wage garnishment in cases where the underlying debt was incurred for medical care or hospital services rendered to the judgment debtor or his or her family.

In a letter sent to Wieckowski in June 2011 by Disability Rights California’s Brandon Tartaglia, the legislative advocate laid out some of the difficulties that the disabled faced under the old law. “People with disabilities are often low income earners and have higher medical costs than people without disabilities,” Tartaglia wrote. “Wage garnishment can make it difficult to pay for rent or mortgage, preventative care, transportation, or food, things that are necessary to maintain healthy life in the community.”

As Tartaglia noted, “AB 1388 will allow medical debtors to pay for the necessities of life without shirking their responsibility to those they owe.” Does this seems like a fair exemption to create? What other types of exemptions would you like to see California enact?

Law Offices of Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob – Los Angeles employment lawyers