Justice and Law Enforcement:

H.R. 3565--Allowing for the Garnishment of Federal Employees' Pay for Commercial Debt

T-GGD-88-11: Published: Feb 18, 1988. Publicly Released: Feb 18, 1988.

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GAO discussed H.R. 3565, legislation proposed to subject federal employees to wage garnishment for commercial debts. GAO found that: (1) although all federal employees are subject to garnishment for child support and alimony payments, only a few agencies' employees are currently subject to garnishment for commercial debt collection; (2) the doctrine of sovereign immunity protects most federal civilian and Armed Forces members from garnishment for commercial debt; (3) only 3 of the 21 agencies it reviewed have the authority to sue or be sued in their own names, which legally constitutes a waiver of sovereign immunity; (4) the Postal Service has processed commercial garnishments for several years and has about 2,708 employees with commercial debt wage garnishments; (5) none of the agencies maintain actual cost information on their garnishment processes; and (6) differing state laws governing commercial debt garnishments would preclude standardized processing. GAO believes that Congress may wish to consider ways to minimize the legislation's administrative burden on federal agencies, such as authorizing agencies to collect processing fees.

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