The answer is, it depends.
For the most part, debt collectors are allowed to call you at work. But if you tell them never to call you there again, or tell them it is an inconvenient time to speak, they must never contact you or anyone else at your employment again.
Certain professions are off-limits for debt collectors altogether, as it is common knowledge that certain types of occupations make it extremely inconvenient for the consumer to receive telephone calls, such as teachers, nurses, retail workers, and many others.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692c(a)(3):
(a) 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.
If you are being contacted at work by a debt collector, it is enough to put debt collectors on notice under § 1692c(a)(3) by stating in plain English that you cannot speak to the debt collector at work. This is sufficient to place the collector on notice that the employer does not allow such collection calls.
In addition, debt collectors should be trained to recognize that workers in certain occupations do not receive personal mail, phone calls, or visits at work except in emergencies. Such occupations include factory, health, school, call center, and retail jobs. If a debt collector contacts you at work when you are employed in such an occupation, they most likely are in violation of the FDCPA.
This section of the FDCPA broadly applies to all types of communications at work, not just phone calls. Communications such as faxes, texts, or emails are also covered. Because the term “consumer” includes the consumer’s spouse, this section of the FDCPA also prohibits a debt collector from contacting a consumer’s spouse at work if such calls are prohibited by the spouse’s employer.
Additional provisions of the FDCPA protect a consumer’s job include:
- Collectors may not directly contact a consumer’s employer, except for location information in strictly limited circumstances (15 U.S.C. § 1692c(b)
- The consumer has the right to require the collector to stop contacting the consumer altogether 15 U.S.C. § 1692c(c)
- Threats to contact the consumer at work or to contact the consumer’s employer may be deceptive, violating the FDCPA. 15 U.S.C. § 1692e(5).