On February 7, 2012, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law House Bill 683 that allows Georgia employers to submit Answers to wage garnishment orders issued against their employees without having an attorney review and sign off on the pleadings sent to court.
Addressing the new law, Deal stated, “This law will take effect immediately and remove a mandate that could pose a costly burden on job creators. Reducing the amount of unnecessary legal fees is just one step in making Georgia the No. 1 place to do business, and there is no need for its delay.”
The Bill made its way rapidly through the Georgia House and Senate without significant opposition, and it was enacted to counteract a recent Georgia Supreme Court ruling that held that companies must utilize an attorney to answer wage garnishments in superior and state court proceedings. Specifically, the legislation clarifies that answering a garnishment does not constitute the “practice of law;” therefore, it is not necessary to have an attorney prepare the Answer.
Although employers are no longer required to utilize counsel to submit an Answer to a wage garnishment under the new legislation, there are times when representation might be required. If a garnishment action goes into default, is contested (traversed), or otherwise requires a filing other than an Answer, an attorney must sign and submit the pleadings to the court on behalf of the employer.
Georgia employers may now go back to what was the nearly universal approach of having the human resources or payroll departments internally process and submit Georgia garnishment Answers.
If you have any questions about the contents of this Alert or any other employment-related issue, please be sure to contact your employment counsel at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP.