This article was written by Lemberg Law staff, and reviewed by Sergei Lemberg, the managing attorney of Lemberg Law.
Yes, but only under limited circumstances. Debt collectors can only contact your boss to confirm your employment. They cannot reveal why they are calling or that they are a debt collector.
Is It Legal For A Collection Agency To Call My Employer?
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) regulates, among other things, who a debt collector can contact regarding a consumer’s debt. Specifically, Section 805 of the FDCPA protects consumers by limiting a debt collector’s contact with third parties. This includes your employer. Restricting the contact that a debt collector can have with your employer is vital to the FDCPA’s purpose because debt collection attempts designed to embarrass or harass a consumer can threaten their continued employment or undermine their opportunity for a promotion. That, in turn, can have a devastating impact on a consumer and on their family. It also harms a consumer’s ability to repay the debt they owe.
For these reasons, the FDCPA severely limits the scope of information that a debt collector can request from a consumer’s employer. Section 805 aims to fulfill a debt collector’s practical need for basic information to locate and contact a consumer while protecting the consumer from the disclosure of information about their debt, as this can negatively impact their work performance, relationships, and employment opportunities.
However, debt collection agencies sometimes run afoul of the law. In one case filed in federal court, a debt collector allegedly called the consumer’s workplace and told her employer that the agency was looking for the consumer regarding “an important matter.” In another, the debt collector allegedly revealed information about the debt to the receptionist, to someone in the human resources department, and to the consumer’s supervisor. One can imagine – at the very least – the embarrassment that would cause the employee.
What are debt collectors prohibited from saying to my employer?
Although contact with your employer is not completely prohibited, debt collectors are constrained when it comes to when and why they can call your work. Specifically, they:
- Can’t discuss your debt with your employer.
- Can’t identify themselves as a debt collector.
- Can’t call you if you’ve told them it’s not allowed.
There are a few notable exceptions. These prohibitions do not apply if you gave permission to the debt collector to call your employer. They also aren’t applicable if the debt collector has received express permission from a court to contact your employer or if there is a court judgment against you and communicating with your employer is reasonably necessary to enforce the judgment.
What is a debt collector allowed to say to my boss?
A debt collector is permitted to call your employer to obtain information about where you live, what your phone number is, your employment status, and – if it’s medical-related debt – information about your health insurance benefits. While your employer cannot refuse to disclose this information, they can refuse to verify your salary or any other personal information. If you were sued and a court entered a judgment against you for the debt you owe, the debt collector may also contact your employer to garnish your wages.
How often is a debt collector permitted to call my employer?
A debt collector may only contact your employer once in order to request information about your location, phone number, and employment status. In addition, debt collectors may not contact you at work if you have informed them that your employer has a policy against such calls.
Federal case filings reveal that this provision of the FDCPA is often violated. For example, in several cases, debt collectors were alleged to have kept calling consumer workplaces even after the consumers told them that the calls were prohibited by company policy.
What should I do if a debt collector has called my workplace and revealed a debt to my employer?
If a debt collector discussed your debt with your employer or even identified themselves as a debt collector when calling your employer, then they are in violation of the FDCPA. Because the FDCPA is designed to be enforced through private action, you should contact a consumer law firm that is experienced in litigating fair debt cases.
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