Federal Wage Garnishments

August 11, 2023


If your judgment debtor works for the Federal government, can their wages be attached? Most likely, yes, because Congress’s Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993 (5 USC 5520a) authorized garnishment of federal civilian employees’ pay to repay judgments.

This article is my opinion, and not legal advice. I am a judgment broker, and am not a lawyer. If you ever need any legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer.

There are limitations on the types of federal income that can be garnished, see 5 CFR 581.104. Most of the relevant laws and forms are at www.gpo.gov. One can find the OF311 PDF form at: www.opm.gov/Forms/pdf_fill/of311.pdf).

The laws cited on the (of311.pdf) Application for Federal Employee Commercial Garnishment form (covered by e.g., 5 USC 5520) seem vague, and do not appear to mention the need for a writ of execution. I am not a lawyer, however I think you should always get a writ of execution from a State court local to the debtor’s assets; when there are available judgment debtor assets in sight.

Ask your local civil Sheriff how they handle Federal employee wage garnishments. Sheriffs (for a small extra fee) will use certified mail, after getting your standard writ and levy document package and their fee, to serve most Federal government wage levies out of state, including the Postal Service. Levies are usually limited to 25% of the judgment debtor’s disposable earnings. Child and spousal support can be garnished up to 60% of the judgment debtor’s disposable earnings.

The first step to garnish the wages of a (judgment debtor) federal employee is to get a state court Writ of Execution from whatever county your judgment originated in for the county where the debtor is now. You will need an Application for Federal Employee Commercial Garnishment form, (of311.pdf). If you are an assignee of record, include your court-stamped assignment of judgment. Then, send the writ, and the OF311 form to the Sheriff in the county where the judgment debtor is physically employed.

I have read laws that specify a certified copy of the judgment must be included for service by the Sheriff, however I have never heard of that requirement being enforced. The California Sheriff’s manual states that the Sheriff shall serve levies in person, or by certified or registered mail (return receipt requested); or both, on Federal employers.

In your letter to the Sheriff, include instructions to serve the levy by certified mail to:

National Payroll Branch
GSA National Payroll Branch – BCEC
1500 East Bannister Road – Room 1118
Kansas City, MO 64131
Phone: (800) 676-3690 Ext. 33900
Email: [email protected]

The procedure for attaching a Postal worker’s wages is slightly different. The phone number to verify if someone works for the Post Office is 800-276-9850. Sometimes the US Post Office does not like it when their employee’s wages are garnished, so sometimes they will encourage their employee to set up a voluntary payment plan to avoid a levy. (Most Sherriffs are very familiar to levying postal service employment wages.) Have your Sheriff serve a Post Office worker levy by certified mail to:

USPS IT/ASC Manager Payroll Services
2825 Lone Oak Parkway
Eagan, MN 55121-1551

If your judgment debtor works for a prison system, most prisons have their own payroll administration. Call the prison where your judgment debtor works and ask where levies should be served on an employee of theirs. Note that some federal offices, especially prison systems, are not very helpful or responsive if you ask why no money was coming in.

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