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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 12928
Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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Employment law

Customer Question

Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Hello and welcome. How can I help you?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hello. I have a question. I am a company that uses independent contractors and I give them a 1099 at the end of the year. I was recently sent a letter from an attorney requesting wage garnishment for a contractor. I am hesitant to want to garnish any wages because I don't want the garnishment to create an employment relationship thus putting myself at risk for employee misclassification. Do you have any suggestions on how to handle this? I Googled this topic and found out that contractors can't have garnishments but this attorney said that is incorrect.
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you.

All "earnings" are subject to wage garnishment. Florida Statute § 222.11 defines "earnings" in the context of wage garnishment as "compensation paid or payable, in money or a sum certain, for personal services or labor, whether denominated as wages, salary, commission, or bonus."

The case of In re Branscum, 229 B.R. 32 examined whether money received by an independent contractor are "earnings" within this definition. That court held:

"It is the Trustee's position that respectable authorities construing this Statute hold that the exemption provided by the Statute is not available to independent contractors or individuals engaged in business as sole proprietors. Rather, the exemption is available only to individuals whose earnings are derived from wages, salaries or commission."

In other words, money received by an independent contractor is not subject to wage garnishment. Thus, there would not typically be any legal obligation to comply with a wage garnishment request for an independent contractor.

I hope that you find this information helpful. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.

If you do not require any further assistance, please be so kind as to provide a positive rating of my service so that I may receive credit for assisting you. Very best wishes moving forward.

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Customer: replied 1 year ago.
One of the attorney’s at the firm was reviewing the file and she states she cannot dismiss this garnishment because Mr. Smith can still get paid by my business if he does work for you since you stated he is an Independent Contractor. I guess I'll need to consult a local attorney about it? They don't seem to be backing down with the Independent Contractor argument.
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your reply.

The case I cited above is extremely clear that independent contractors are exempt from wage garnishments. You may wish to cite the case to this attorney. You can find a copy of the decision here. Ask them to provide contrary legal authority and if they can't, then you are on as firm of ground as you can possibly be.

I hope this helps. Again, please feel free to let me know if you have any further concerns. If I have answered your question, I would be very grateful for a positive rating of my service so that I may receive credit for assisting you.

Very best wishes.

Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Was there anything else I can do for you?