DOL Issues New Opinion Letters Including Lump Sums

The Federal Department of Labor (DOL) has been issuing a flurry of opinion letters recently.   But even more  amazing, is that one of the opinion letters actually deals with a subject long been a thorn in payroll’s side and one that some of us have waited years for a ruling.  The basic problem is whether or not lump sum payments such as bonuses are the same as normal wages under the law when it comes to withholding for garnishments.  You see many of the states do not think that lump sum payments fall under the Consumer Credit Protection Act or CCPA.  This is the Act, written in 1970, that sets the limits for what can be deducted from an employee’s pay for such garnishments as child support and creditor garnishments.  The DOL is actually in charge of enforcing the Act, but has always been unclear on their position on whether or not lump sum payments are covered under the Act.  This is especially true for child support, as employers may actually be required to report the pending lump sum payment and wait for instructions on withholding, usually for back child support owed to the state.  For example, according the the Office of Child Support Enforcement’s matrix on states and lump sums, Alabama requires 100% of all lump sums.  California states that it is subject to 50% unless the lump sum payment does “not involve earnings”. while Indiana follows the CCPA, So we have tried to look to the DOL to give a definition ruling on this and low and behold, they finally have.

In opinion letter CCPA2018-1NA the DOL has answered numerous questions on what constitutes earnings by discussing 18 different specific examples of common types of lump sum payments that an employer may issue to an employee.  These include commissions, discretionary and non discretionary bonuses, profit sharing, production bonuses, sign-on bonuses, relocation incentive payments and safety awards.

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