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A Publication of WTVP

The mortgage crisis, increasing gas and energy prices, and runaway consumer spending have resulted in more employees with credit troubles. The attempts of creditors and collection agencies to collect debts often spill over into the workplace, embarrassing and upsetting employees and annoying employers. As an employer, you are concerned about these disruptions to the work day and want to know what can be done to prevent them.

Both state and federal laws apply to debt collection. The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) applies only to third-party debt collectors, not to creditors who attempt to collect their own debts, such as department stores or property managers. In Illinois, the Collection Agency Act governs the licensing, administration and collection activities of collection agencies for both consumer and commercial debt. The registration requirement generally does not apply to any original creditor unless the creditor, in the process of collecting his or her own debts, uses a name that suggests a third party is collecting or attempting to collect the debts.

Under the Illinois Collection Agency Act, a person who is collecting debts may not:

If an employee receives calls at work from a debt collector, the employee should be instructed to write a letter that clearly tells the debt collector not to call and why. It can say that the calls could jeopardize his or her job, or that repeated calls constitute harassment. The letter can also tell the collector how he or she should reach the employee, such as only by mail, or only at the home address. The employee should send the letter via certified mail and keep a copy for his or her records.

If the debt collector continues to call the employee, the employee/debtor can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission or the Attorney General’s office in Illinois. Additional information about the FDCPA can be found at ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/fdc.shtm. For information on the Illinois Act, go to ag.state.il.us/consumers/debtcollection.html.

Of course, stopping debt collectors’ calls does not resolve the underlying problem of debts, which can weigh heavily on an affected employee’s mind, reducing productivity. Referring the employee to the organization’s employee assistance plan (EAP) can help the employee take the first step toward resolving this personal issue. IBI

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