Fishermen Are Exempt From Wage Garnishment

Federal law wage garnishment rules are different than Florida’s rules and exemptions from wage garnishment. For instance, federal law permits garnishment of 15% of net wages without regard to any state exemptions. I just learned about a federal wage garnishment exemption I had never before encountered in asset protection work.

Under federal law, fishermen are exempt from wage garnishment. The applicable statute is 46 USC 11109.

Wages paid to a master or seaman are not subject to attachment. The exemption applies to an individual employed on a fishing vessel or on a fish processing vessel.

Fisherman wages can be garnished to pay support of a spouse or minor child. The statute may not protect a fisherman who owns his own vessel through a company that pays salary because in analogous situations Florida law does not consider owners to be protected employees of their own company.

I suspect most creditor attorneys are not aware of this federal exemption. A fishermen who is subject to a writ of wage garnishment should inform the creditor attorney, and if necessary, hire an attorney to dissolve the garnishment. One of the policy justifications for the exemption is the practical difficulty of dealing with a wage garnishment while employed at sea.

Gideon Alper

About the Author

I’m an attorney who specializes in asset protection planning. I graduated with honors from Emory University Law School and have been practicing law for almost 15 years.

I have helped thousands of clients protect their assets from creditors. Before private practice, I represented the federal government while working for the IRS Office of Chief Counsel.