(a) Garnishment requirements
Notwithstanding any provision of State law, a guaranty agency, or the Secretary in the case of loans made, insured or guaranteed under this subchapter that are held by the Secretary, may garnish the disposable pay of an individual to collect the amount owed by the individual, if he or she is not currently making required repayment under a repayment agreement with the Secretary, or, in the case of a loan guaranteed under part B on which the guaranty agency received reimbursement from the Secretary under section 1078(c) of this title, with the guaranty agency holding the loan, as appropriate, provided that—
(1) the amount deducted 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 the individual involved;
(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 guaranty agency or the Secretary, as appropriate, informing such individual of the nature and amount of the loan obligation to be collected, the intention of the guaranty agency or the Secretary, as appropriate, to initiate proceedings to collect the debt through deductions from pay, and an explanation of the rights of the individual under this section;
(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 guaranty agency or the Secretary, under terms agreeable to the Secretary, or the head of the guaranty agency or his designee, as appropriate, to establish a schedule for the repayment of the debt;
(5) the individual shall be provided an opportunity for a hearing in accordance with subsection (b) on the determination of the Secretary or the guaranty agency, as appropriate, concerning the existence or the amount of the debt, and, in the case of an individual whose repayment schedule is established other than by a written agreement pursuant to paragraph (4), concerning the terms of the repayment schedule;
(6) the employer shall pay to the Secretary or the guaranty agency as directed in the withholding order issued in this action, and shall be liable for, and the Secretary or the guaranty agency, as appropriate, may sue the employer in a State or Federal court of competent jurisdiction to recover, any amount that such employer fails to withhold from wages due an employee following receipt of such employer of notice of the withholding order, plus attorneys' fees, costs, and, in the court's discretion, punitive damages, but such employer shall not be required to vary the normal pay and disbursement cycles in order to comply with this paragraph;
(7) if an individual has been reemployed within 12 months after having been involuntarily separated from employment, no amount may be deducted from the disposable pay of such individual until such individual has been reemployed continuously for at least 12 months; and
(8) 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. 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.
(b) Hearing requirements
A hearing described in subsection (a)(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 (a)(2), and in accordance with such procedures as the Secretary or the head of the guaranty agency, as appropriate, may prescribe, files a petition requesting such a hearing. If the individual does not file a petition requesting a hearing prior to such date, the Secretary or the guaranty agency, as appropriate, shall provide the individual a hearing under subsection (a)(5) upon request, but such hearing need not be provided prior to issuance of a garnishment order. A hearing under subsection (a)(5) may not be conducted by an individual under the supervision or control of the head of the guaranty agency, except that nothing in this sentence shall be construed to prohibit the appointment of an administrative law judge. 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.
(c) Notice requirements
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.
(d) No attachment of student assistance
Except as authorized in this section, notwithstanding any other provision of Federal or State law, no grant, loan, or work assistance awarded under this subchapter, or property traceable to such assistance, shall be subject to garnishment or attachment in order to satisfy any debt owed by the student awarded such assistance, other than a debt owed to the Secretary and arising under this subchapter.
(e) "Disposable pay" defined
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 law to be withheld.
2006—Subsec. (a)(1). Pub. L. 109–171 substituted "15 percent" for "10 percent".
1998—Subsecs. (d), (e). Pub. L. 105–244 added subsec. (d) and redesignated former subsec. (d) as (e).
Effective Date of 2006 Amendment
Amendment by Pub. L. 109–171 effective July 1, 2006, except as otherwise provided, see section 8001(c) of Pub. L. 109–171, set out as a note under section 1002 of this title.
Effective Date of 1998 Amendment
Amendment by Pub. L. 105–244 effective Oct. 1, 1998, except as otherwise provided in Pub. L. 105–244, see section 3 of Pub. L. 105–244, set out as a note under section 1001 of this title.