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General News    H3'ed 3/31/10

Debt Collectors Have a History of Costing People Jobs

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   1 comment
Message Roger Shuler
Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer
When Congress passed the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act (FDCPA) in 1978, it outlined a number of societal problems that seemed to stem from abusive debt-collection practices.

One of those problems was loss of jobs. More than 30 years later, has the FDCPA succeeded in keeping unethical debt collectors from cheating consumers out of their jobs? Based on my experience, the answer is no.

My wife and I first started hearing from debt collectors in the spring of 2007. Is it coincidence that both of us, since that time, have lost our jobs--me at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and her at Infinity Property & Casualty?

Evidence strongly suggests that it is not a coincidence. And we suspect that even with the FDCPA, debt collectors still have the means to cost people their jobs--especially in a state like Alabama, with a toxic, "pro business" political environment.

Abusive debt collectors have a proud history of screwing up people's lives. Consider section 1692 of the FDCPA, which outlines Congressional findings and the purposes of the law:

There is abundant evidence of the use of abusive, deceptive, and unfair debt collection practices by many debt collectors. Abusive debt collection practices contribute to the number of personal bankruptcies, to marital instability, to the loss of jobs, and to invasions of individual privacy.

Let's ponder that list of societal ills to which debt collectors contribute:

* Personal bankruptcies

* Marital instability

* Loss of Jobs

* Invasions of individual privacy

That's serious stuff. How have debt collectors traditionally cost people their jobs? Congress does not say. But we live in a society where most states have "at will" work laws, meaning your employer can fire you for a good reason, a bad reason, or no reason at all--as long as they don't violate federal anti-discrimination laws.

Our guess is that calls from debt collectors to employers--combined with efforts to garnish wages--probably led many workplaces to fire employees. As we know from personal experience, debt collectors often have little or no proof that a debt is even owed.

How do debt collectors cheat people out of their jobs these days? Well, our experience suggests they can do it in multiple ways. My wife and I filed a lawsuit in July 2008 against two debt-collection outfits--NCO and Ingram & Associates--alleging multiple violations of the FDCPA and various state-law claims. It appears that my wife's unlawful termination at Infinity Property & Casualty is tied to our discovery efforts in that lawsuit.

My termination at UAB predates the lawsuit we filed. But it dovetails almost perfectly with original calls we received from debt collectors and the eventual selling of our house on the courthouse steps in Shelby County.

We find it mighty curious that it was debt collectors who originally threatened the sale of our house "on the courthouse steps." And it was corrupt Alabama attorney William E. Swatek who eventually carried out that threat, under the guise of seeking a judgment on behalf of our troublesome neighbor, Mike McGarity.

Is it possible that Swatek became aligned with debt collectors in a scheme that resulted in the loss of my job? We will be examining that question in detail in upcoming posts.

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I live in Birmingham, Alabama, and work in higher education. I became interested in justice-related issues after experiencing gross judicial corruption in Alabama state courts. This corruption has a strong political component. The corrupt judges are (more...)
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