Attorney General: Honorable Nancy Wyman, State of Connecticut, 1997-003 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

February 3, 1997

Honorable Nancy Wyman
Comptroller
State of Connecticut
55 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106-1775

Dear Ms.Wyman:

You ask whether payment of reimbursement expenses incurred by state employees is subject to wage garnishment under Conn. Gen. Stat. 52-361a. The answer is no.

Conn. Gen. Stat.  52-361a deals with wage executions. "If a judgment debtor fails to comply with an installment payment order, the judgment creditor may apply to the court for a wage execution." Id. The statute refers to "earnings" upon which the wage execution shall be levied.

(d) The levying officer shall levy on all earnings which are due or become due to the judgment debtor to the extent specified in the wage execution, until the judgment is satisfied, or the execution is modified or set aside, by serving the employer with two copies of the wage execution, the required notice of rights and the claim forms.. . .

Conn. Gen. Stat.  52-361a(d) (emphasis added).

The definitional section governing the terms of the garnishment statute is found in Conn. Gen. Stat.  52-350a. "Earnings" is defined as "any debt accruing by reason of personal services, including any compensation payable by an employer to an employee for such personal services, whether denominated as wages, salary, commission, bonus or otherwise." Id.

Illustrative of the purpose of the wage garnishment statute is the inclusion of "wages" in the definition for "earnings." Id. "Wages" is used to define earnings along with "salary, commission, bonus or otherwise." Application of the rule of statutory construction known as "ejusdem generis" is appropriate here. "Ejusdem generis" stands for the proposition that where general terms are followed by specific terms in a statute, the general terms will be construed to embrace things of the same general kind or character as those specifically enumerated. State v. Russell, 218 Conn. 273, 278, 588 A.2d 1376 (1991). In  52-350a the general term, "earnings" is followed by four examples: "wages, salary, commission, bonus or otherwise." The term "otherwise," under the canon of "ejusdem generis," immediately following an enumerated listing, means that the word "otherwise" will generally be read as "other such like." See Chicago v. Bethlehem Healing Temple Church, 93 Ill. App.2d 303, 236 N.E.2d 357 (1968). Reimbursable expenses are not like wages, salary, commissions or bonus. Therefore, "earnings" is properly limited to compensation for services rendered, reflected by use of the terms "wages, salary, commission, bonus or otherwise."

Since non-reportable expense reimbursements represent a debt owed by the employer related to an employee disbursement or advance, as opposed to remuneration for services rendered constituting earnings, the former cannot be subject to the wage garnishment statute 52-361a.

I trust this fully answers your question.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Thomas P. Clifford, III
Assistant Attorney General

RB/TPC/fsd


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