What Debt Collectors Can’t Do…#2

Hey hey hey. I’ve got another good one for you to think about when you’ve got debt collectors calling you:

Debt collectors are prohibited from communicating with your place of employment if the debt collector has reason to know that your employer prohibits those kinds of communications.

This issue seems to flare up with some regularity, and like everything in the law, has a few caveats. Here’s the full legalese from the statute:

Communication with the consumer generally. Without the prior consent of the consumer given directly to the debt collector or the express permission of a court of competent jurisdiction, a debt collector may not communicate with a consumer in connection with the collection of any debt….(3) 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 communication.” 15 U.S.C. 1692c(a)(3)

Lauritzen Gardens resized

Here are the takeaways from the statute that you should keep in mind next time you get a phone call from a debt collector while you’re toiling away, working for the man:

  • A debt collector can call your employer all they want IF you give the debt collector permission to do so. This isn’t legal advice, this is just common sense – don’t do that.
  • Does your employer have a policy on personal phone calls in the workplace? Whether explicitly and painstakingly recorded in an employee handbook, or informally acknowledged in the office that personal calls on the company’s dime “is just not cool, man,” your employer probably doesn’t want to get calls from debt collectors any more than you want debt collectors to call your employer.
  • This provision was included because who really likes to have their dirty underwear aired in front of their work colleagues? I better not see any hands waving in the air.
  • The best way to make sure the debt collector understands that your employer does not allow debt collection phone calls is to verbally inform the debt collector on the phone, and write down the time, date, and who you talked to in order to keep a record.
  • And if your employer is OK with those kinds of harassing phone calls, you should probably polish up that resume and find a better employer.

What Debt Collectors Can’t Do….#1

I’m starting a series, hopefully to help those of you receiving calls from debt collectors, or other types of communications from debt collectors (Ex: my post on The Worst Thing a Debt Collector can Do to You).

To start the series, let’s talk about one violation that seems to occur with alarming regularity:

Causing the phone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversations repeatedly

This language is taken directly from the federal statute, 15 U.S.C. 1692(d)(5), outlining one of many forms of harassment a debt collector may not use in order to collect a debt. Here’s the full text of 1692(d)(5):

“Causing a telephone to ring or engaging any person in telephone conversation repeatedly or continuously with intent to annoy, abuse, or harass any person at the called number.”

So how many telephone calls does it take to count as harassment? It depends.

Frustrating answer, isn’t it? There isn’t a bright line rule because courts analyze the statute under a case-by-case basis. This means the facts of one case don’t necessarily predict the outcome of another case that might have similar, but distinguishable facts.

Here are some factors to consider if a debt collector has been calling you:

  • How many calls have been made to your home or office or cell phone?
  • Over what length of time have those calls been made? Common sense would suggest that the more calls made over a short course of time, the more likely it is that you have a violation.
  • Are they leaving messages if you don’t pick up the call?
  • Are you picking up the call every time they call?
  • Are they calling after working hours?

Bottomline: if you feel as though a debt collector is harassing you with their constant phone calls, contact a FDCPA attorney to see what they think.