“How Can A Collector Calling Your Work Cause Mental Anguish Damages Under The FDCPA?”

“How Can A Collector Calling Your Work Cause Mental Anguish Damages Under The FDCPA?”

"How Can A Collector Calling Your Work Cause Mental Anguish Damages Under The FDCPA?"We were discussing a FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) lawsuit with an experienced FDCPA defense counsel and the insurance company and told them we viewed the case as having a significant amount of value.  The defense lawyer and insurance man looked confused and they asked:

I know our collection agency illegally called your work and spoke to co employees and your boss.  That was wrong.  So what?  How could that possibly have harmed your client?  How can she have any significant mental anguish damages?

Two thoughts ran through my mind:

  • These guys know exactly how damaging this illegal conduct was and they are just playing “dumb” to see if they can get us to lower the value of the case; or
  • These guys really, honestly, truly have no idea how this type of conduct could be harmful to a consumer in Alabama.

I don’t know which is more surprising.

But let’s take it as an honest question and we’ll think through each part of this with you as you may be having the same experience and same questions.

It is illegal under the FDCPA for a debt collector to speak to co-workers about your debt

A debt collector can only speak to you, your spouse, or your lawyer about the debt.

No one else.

Not your mother.

Not your brother.

Not your preacher.

Not your neighbor.

Not your human resource department.

Not your payroll department.

And not your boss or your co-worker.

OK, it is illegal, but what can you do about it?

If the bill collector has contacted your co-workers or boss about your debt, you can likely sue under the FDCPA for money damages

This type of conduct is one of the worst types of violations a debt collector can take.

If you sue under the FDCPA, you can recover what are known as “actual” or “compensatory” damages.

This includes mental anguish or emotional distress damages.

You have a right to not have to deal with these types of violations of the law.

So if these violations have caused you mental anguish damages, a jury can decide how much you are entitled to receive to “make you whole” or fully compensate you.

The jury will be told, in the jury charges, that there is “no legal yardstick by which to measure mental anguish damages” and instead they should use their common collective wisdom in making their decision.

But is it realistic to expect that a debt collector calling your work can cause you problems and difficulties?

Knowing that your boss or co-workers know about the debt naturally causes a lot of mental anguish for most folks

This is a tough economy for most people.

More people want jobs than there are jobs available.

So you are happy to have a job.

And then the debt collectors start calling your work.

This is known as an “Office Party” in the debt collector jargon.

They intentionally call people you work with for only one reason.

To make you pay the debt.


By bringing intense pressure on you from your co-workers — and especially your boss — knowing that you owe a debt and it has “gotten out of hand” to where a collection agency is now bothering people at your job.

The very reason this works so well — and it is incredibly effective — is because of the enormous strain this puts you under.

You start thinking these thoughts:

  • Will my boss fire me?
  • Will I get passed over for that promotion I need because my boss thinks I can’t handle my personal business?
  • How much are my co-workers talking about me when I’m not around?
  • Will my company be concerned about my productivity since I’m having to handle these personal matters at work?
  • What will I tell my spouse and children if I lose my job because of this?
  • What will my friends and family think about me or say to me when I lose my job?

So is it possible — actually probable and near certain — that this type of illegal conduct which occurred in the past will cause mental anguish damages?


And significant damages also.

But what if you are in the middle of this right now?

What if the debt collector is illegally doing this and may continue to do this?

Will this cause damages in the future?

Knowing that your boss or co-workers may receive calls in the future from the debt collector naturally causes even more mental anguish for most consumers

The fact that this collection agency or debt buyer has already called your co-workers and/or boss lets you know two simple facts about this company:

It has not problem violating the law and you are naive if you think it will suddenly stop violating the law now.

Knowing that this company will likely make these calls again, does that cause mental anguish?


The only people who think it does not are lawyers that defend collection agencies and the insurance company adjusters who decide how much they want to pay when their insureds — the debt collectors — violate the law.

But not only mental anguish damages — also punitive damages are normally available to you . . . .

When debt collectors call your boss or co-workers, this normally opens the collection agency up to punitive damages under Alabama state law

Alabama state law prohibits abusive debt collection practices when it goes beyond reasonable collection efforts.

Calling co workers at your job and calling your boss pretty easily qualify as:

Unreasonable debt collection practices that go way over the line.

There are a number of legal theories or ways to recover punitive damages and each one depends on the particular facts of your case:

  • Invasion of Privacy
  • Wanton Conduct
  • Wanton Training and Supervision of Debt Collectors

When you show that the conduct was not an accident — not even simply “negligent” — but instead was clearly designed and carried out as part of a scheme then punitive damages are available.

Even if the debt collection agency says “We had no such scheme” — if the agency was reckless (or what is called “wantoness”) then punitive damages are up to the jury.

For example, a drunk gets in a car and drives.  He doesn’t “want” to hurt anyone but he knows, or should know, that is is reckless to drive while drunk.

Same thing when a debt collector calls co-workers or your boss.

“But I didn’t mean to hurt you — I just wanted to get you to call me back.  I had no idea this would cause you problems at work.”

Yeah right.

That’s a lousy defense because the very reason the calls are made — is because this type of conduct works.

But just because it works isn’t the end of the story.

Instead we look to the consequences.

Mental anguish damages.

Punitive damages.

So, what do you do if you are being harassed like this?  Read on . . . .

The next steps you should consider taking if a collection agency has been calling your co-workers or boss

Document everything:

  • Who called
  • When they called
  • What was said
  • Get your co-workers to email you or leave you a voicemail message as to what happened so you can document this because the agencies that break the law love to destroy the evidence but they can’t destroy what your co-workers or boss give you
  • Get with a consumer lawyer in your state to see whether you should sue, who you should sue, and when you should file the lawsuit

The only way to stop these jokers is to sue them and make them pay the right amount of damages for breaking the law.

If you live in Alabama and want to chat with us, we will be  happy to do so.

We have sued many debt collectors for this type of conduct.

You can call us at 205-879-2447 or you can contact us through our contact us page.


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