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Florida Appellate Court Permits Garnishment Of Employee’s Commissions To Satisfy Judgment

Attorney Peter Maverick
Website

08/22/12

A Florida appellate court recently decided that an employee cannot escape garnishment of his sales commissions on the grounds that commissions are not a "wage" under Florida law governing wage garnishments.

The case concerned an employee who an unpaid personal judgment against him. The creditor sought to collect the judgment by garnishing the employee's wages. The creditor filed a motion in Florida circuit court for a continuing writ of garnishment pursuant to section 77.0305, Florida Statutes. Section 77.0305 provides in pertinent part that:

"[I]f a salary or wages are to be garnished to satisfy a judgment, the court shall issue a continuing writ of garnishment to the judgment debtor's employer which provides of the periodic payment of a portion of the salary or wages of the judgment debtor as the salary or wages become due until the judgment is satisfied or until otherwise provided by court order."

The employer, i.e., the garnishee, objected to the writ, contending that the employee was paid by commissions and that commissions were not "salary or wages" as envisioned by section 77.0305. The trial court agreed, reasoning that the debtor-employee did not have income that was subject to garnishment.

The appellate court reversed the trial court's decision. The appellate court explained that whether commissions are considered "salary or wages" under section 77.035 is a question of statutory interpretation that is reviewed de novo. Although the terms "salary" and "wage" have not been specifically defined within the garnishment statutes, words of common usage, when employed in a statute, should be construed in their plain and ordinary sense.

"Wages" is a broad term that encompasses all types of payments made for labor or services. Courts have held in other contexts that the term "wages" includes all remuneration for employment, including commissions, bonuses, back pay awards, and the cash value of all remuneration paid in any medium other than cash. Similarly, in awarding attorney's fees in actions for unpaid wages, courts have held that the term unpaid "wages" includes unpaid commissions. Therefore the appellate court concluded that commissions are "wages" for purposes of the section 77.035 of Florida's garnishment statutes.

Attorney Peter Maverick represents management and business owners in employment and labor law. Mr. Maverick has successfully represented many businesses in court as well as in responding to threatened legal action. This article is intended for information purposes only and is not legal advice. This article is not a substitute for legal advice tailored to a particular client's situation. Peter T. Maverick can be reached at: Website: www.mavricklaw.com; Telephone: 954-564-2246; Address: 1620 West Oakland Park Boulevard, Suite 300, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311; Email: pmavrickesq@yahoo.com.

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