What Bankruptcy can do about wage garnishment

California Wage Garnishment Exemption

Wages are protected by federal non bankruptcy law, and by state wage garnishment laws, which are generally more generous than the Federal wage garnishment protection. There are typically exceptions to this exemption for things like child support, and other priority debts.
California Tools of Trade Exemptions
California WildCard Exemption

Last Reviewed: Wed, Aug 26, 2020

 California collections law and federal labor law (a federal non-bankruptcy exemption) set limits on what wages can be garnished.
The Wage Garnishment exemption in bankruptcy is for "earned by unpaid wages"... that is wages you'd earned as of the date you filed, but hadn't been paid for yet.
In a few states, the exemption protects earlier wages deposited in a bank account.
As the NCLC pointed out in a 2019 survey of state wage garnishment laws, some states fail to guarantee that a debtor can earn a poverty wage, free of garnishment.

See also on LegalConsumer.com

From Elsewhere on the web:

Wage Exemptions -- State System

California Law Wage Garnishment Limits

In California, your wages are protected to 75% of wages or 40 times state minimum wage ($12/hour for large employers, otherwise $11) or local minimum wage; more if debtor proves that higher amount is needed. Garnishment is limited to 50% of amount in excess of 40 times state or local minimum wage.

California earned a "C" from NCLC because its garnishment law protect at least $350 per week.

California Exemption System 1

California Exemption System 2

Federal Non-Bankruptcy Law
(available only if using State System)

Federal "non-bankruptcy" law also offers exemption protection for wages.

Wage Garnishment — Federal System § 522 (no exemption)

Can California debtors use the Federal Bankruptcy exemptions instead of California exemptions?

No. Federal exemptions not available. Instead, California has two systems of exemptions, one of which closely mirrors the federal scheme. Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 703.130 

The Federal Bankruptcy Exemptions under 11 U.S.C. § 522(d) are available to you if

  • you haven't lived in any state longer than 180 days for a while,
  • or
  • if your state allows the Federal exemptions as a choice.


Jurisdictional relevance: There are versions of this article for each State.
Selected State: California
California Tools of Trade Exemptions
California WildCard Exemption

You may also be interested in:

  • California Tools of Trade Exemptions

    Most states allow an exemption for "tools of trade or profession"... this can include tools, books, even vehicles. Sometimes can be an alternative to the motor vehicle exemption.

  • California WildCard Exemption

    Almost every state has an exemption for "any property" which is sometimes called the "wildcard" or "grubsteak" exemption. Generally this exemption is useful because it can be combined with other exemptions to fully protect equity that might otherwise go unprotected.

  • Is California Adjusting Its Bankruptcy Exemptions for Inflation in 2022?

    The Federal Government adjusts Federal exemption amounts every three years. Does California adjust exemption amounts?