Under California law, contacting the debtor’s employer is only permissible if it is made for the purposes of verifying the debtor's employment, locating the debtor, or effecting garnishment, after judgment, of the debtor's wages, or in the case of a medical debt for the purpose of discovering the existence of medical insurance. NFCU had already verified my client's employment and location as shown by the multiple voicemail messages left for my client. One NFCU collection agent had even expressed the suspicion that she had spoken directly with my client already, believing that my client had lied about her identity during the phone call. Under those circumstances, further contact with the employer was neither necessary nor permitted.
Consumer debtors in California are protected from creditor harassment by the Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. A debtor can sue for statutory damages ranging from $100 to $1,000 for each type of violation. Some acts, such as suing for a time-barred debt, constitute a violation of multiple sections of the Rosenthal Act. A debtor can also sue for actual damages such as out of pocket expenses to see a doctor to alleviate stress or expenses such as medication or legal advice. Debtors can also sue for emotional distress under extreme circumstances.
When my client in this matter files for bankruptcy, we will list the Rosenthal Act claims against NFCU and then be filing a lawsuit in state court at the appropriate time. I will post more details in the coming months as the case progresses.
About the Author: Carl H. Starrett II has been a licensed attorney since 1993 and is a member in good standing with the California State Bar and the San Diego County Bar Association. Mr. Starrett practices in the areas of bankruptcy, business litigation, construction, corporate planning and debt collection.