(a) Notwithstanding any provision of State law, the head of an
executive, judicial, or legislative agency that administers a
program that gives rise to a delinquent nontax debt owed to the
United States by an individual may in accordance with this section
garnish the disposable pay of the individual to collect the amount
owed, if the individual is not currently making required repayment
in accordance with any agreement between the agency head and the
(b) In carrying out any garnishment of disposable pay of an
individual under subsection (a), the head of an executive,
judicial, or legislative agency shall comply with the following
(1) The amount deducted under this section for any pay period
may not exceed 15 percent of disposable pay, except that a
greater percentage may be deducted with the written consent of
(2) The individual shall be provided written notice, sent by
mail to the individual's last known address, a minimum of 30 days
prior to the initiation of proceedings, from the head of the
executive, judicial, or legislative agency, informing the
individual of -
(A) the nature and amount of the debt to be collected;
(B) the intention of the agency to initiate proceedings to
collect the debt through deductions from pay; and
(C) an explanation of the rights of the individual under this
(3) The individual shall be provided an opportunity to inspect
and copy records relating to the debt.
(4) The individual shall be provided an opportunity to enter
into a written agreement with the executive, judicial, or
legislative agency, under terms agreeable to the head of the
agency, to establish a schedule for repayment of the debt.
(5) The individual shall be provided an opportunity for a
hearing in accordance with subsection (c) on the determination of
the head of the executive, judicial, or legislative agency
(A) the existence or the amount of the debt, and
(B) in the case of an individual whose repayment schedule is
established other than by a written agreement pursuant to
paragraph (4), the terms of the repayment schedule.
(6) If the individual has been reemployed within 12 months
after having been involuntarily separated from employment, no
amount may be deducted from the disposable pay of the individual
until the individual has been reemployed continuously for at
least 12 months.
(c)(1) A hearing under subsection (b)(5) shall be provided prior
to issuance of a garnishment order if the individual, on or before
the 15th day following the mailing of the notice described in
subsection (b)(2), and in accordance with such procedures as the
head of the executive, judicial, or legislative agency may
prescribe, files a petition requesting such a hearing.
(2) If the individual does not file a petition requesting a
hearing prior to such date, the head of the agency shall provide
the individual a hearing under subsection (a)(5) (!1) upon request,
but such hearing need not be provided prior to issuance of a
(3) The hearing official shall issue a final decision at the
earliest practicable date, but not later than 60 days after the
filing of the petition requesting the hearing.
(d) The notice to the employer of the withholding order shall
contain only such information as may be necessary for the employer
to comply with the withholding order.
(e)(1) An employer may not discharge from employment, refuse to
employ, or take disciplinary action against an individual subject
to wage withholding in accordance with this section by reason of
the fact that the individual's wages have been subject to
garnishment under this section, and such individual may sue in a
State or Federal court of competent jurisdiction any employer who
takes such action.
(2) The court shall award attorneys' fees to a prevailing
employee and, in its discretion, may order reinstatement of the
individual, award punitive damages and back pay to the employee, or
order such other remedy as may be reasonably necessary.
(f)(1) The employer of an individual -
(A) shall pay to the head of an executive, judicial, or
legislative agency as directed in a withholding order issued in
an action under this section with respect to the individual, and
(B) shall be liable for any amount that the employer fails to
withhold from wages due an employee following receipt by such
employer of notice of the withholding order, plus attorneys'
fees, costs, and, in the court's discretion, punitive damages.
(2)(A) The head of an executive, judicial, or legislative agency
may sue an employer in a State or Federal court of competent
jurisdiction to recover amounts for which the employer is liable
under paragraph (1)(B).
(B) A suit under this paragraph may not be filed before the
termination of the collection action, unless earlier filing is
necessary to avoid expiration of any applicable statute of
(3) Notwithstanding paragraphs (1) and (2), an employer shall not
be required to vary its normal pay and disbursement cycles in order
to comply with this subsection.
(g) For the purpose of this section, the term "disposable pay"
means that part of the compensation of any individual from an
employer remaining after the deduction of any amounts required by
any other law to be withheld.
(h) The Secretary of the Treasury shall issue regulations to
implement this section.