Collection calls to a consumer’s workplace or job are among the most intrusive violations of a consumer’s right to privacy. Congress understood the inconvenience and embarrassment that debt collectors can cause on the job and restricted debt collectors from unfettered calls to the consumers’ place of business.
Debt collectors may not call consumers at work if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer’s employer(s) prohibits employees from receiving such non-emergency calls or visitors. Section 805 of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collectors from calling the consumer :
“at the consumer’s place of employment if the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer’s employer prohibits the consumer from receiving such calls.”
15 U.S.C. Section 1692c(a)(3).
Sometimes, the debt collector knows or has reason to know that the consumer’s employer probably prohibits such calls before the collection agency or other debt collector places the first call.
There are not any “magic words” that the consumer must use to notify the debt collector that the consumer’s employer prohibits accepting collection calls at work. But, consumers can place themselves in a stronger position if they say “I can not talk to you during work – my employer doesn’t allow it” rather than simply “I can not talk to you at work”. See Horkey v. J.V.D.B. & Associates, Inc., 333 F. 3d 769 (Cir. 7th 2003)
Consumers who work in health care, law enforcement, emergency health and safety services (“first responders”), schools, factories, delivery vehicles, and similar occupations are often prohibited by employer policy or health and safety regulations from taking non-emergency calls. Although many “office jobs” are not included on this list of occupations, many employers have policies prohibiting employees from accepting non-emergency calls while on the job. Debt collectors who call employee’s workplace often overstep and violate other portions of the law.
The restrictions on collection calls to the workplace are one of the few protections in the FDCPA that a consumer can waive. If the consumer gives the debt collector express permission to call him or her at work, the debt collector may do so. FDCPA, 15 U.S.C. 1692c(a).
As a general rule, the FDCPA does not prohibit debt collectors from speaking with a consumer borrower’s current spouse about a debt. But, debt collectors’ calls to the spouse’s place of employment are subject to the same restrictions as calls to the borrower spouse.
Once a debt collector knows either : (1) the consumer’s home address and telephone number; or (2) the consumer’s place of employment, the debt collector should not be calling anyone else other than the consumer or, possibly, the consumer’s spouse. Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. Section 1692c(b).
The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act generally prohibits creditors (and debt collectors) from telling consumer’s employers that the consumer owes a debt. The Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act provides that creditors as well as debt collectors shall not :
“Communicate or threaten to communicate with a debtor’s employer before obtaining final judgment against the debtor, unless the debtor gives her or his permission in writing to contact her or his employer or acknowledges in writing the existence of the debt after the debt has been placed for collection. However, this does not prohibit a person from telling the debtor that her or his employer will be contacted if a final judgment is obtained.”
Florida Statutes, Section 559.72(4). Since the large publicly traded debt buyers admit that they sue in order to collect fewer than 3% of the accounts, the implied threat to obtain a judgment is often another violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
State laws vary widely but often provide important protections that go beyond the FDCPA’s protections. \
Consumers who live outside Florida are encouraged to consult with an experienced FDCPA lawyer whose offices are located in their state.
I am a Florida lawyer who represents consumers in Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and other debt harassment lawsuits.
If you are a Florida resident and a debt collector or even a creditor is calling you at your office or workplace, please contact me by filling out the Collection Harassment Form on the right hand column of this page. If you are a Florida resident, you are also welcome to call my office for help. I will contact you to discuss your situation and how I may be able to help you protect your rights.
(C) 2011 – 2016 Donald E. Petersen
All rights reserved