The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) (15 U.S.C. § 1692 and following) is a federal law that governs debt collectors' activities and behaviors when collecting consumer debts. For the most part, its restrictions don't apply to the collection of business debts, nor to creditors collecting their own debts.
The FDCPA limits how, when, and where bill collectors can contact debtors. Many of the rules apply to a debtor's workplace.
The FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from contacting debtors at inconvenient or unusual places. (15 U.S. Code § 1692c). Some workplaces, by their nature, are inconvenient places for debtors to take collection calls. Examples might include schools (if the debtor is a teacher), hospitals, funeral homes, and restaurants.
If it's inconvenient for you to take calls at your job site, let the collector know.
Another section of the FDCPA expressly prohibits collectors from contacting debtors at work if the collector knows, or has reason to know, that the employer prohibits such communications. (15 U.S. Code § 1692c).
Many employers have policies that prohibit employees from taking or making nonemergency calls for personal business, which would preclude an employee from taking a collection call.
Because the law prohibits "communications," these restrictions apply to other forms of workplace communications, such as email and texts.
For certain occupations, the collector should know that an employer won't allow collection calls. For example, a collector should have reason to know that an ambulance driver can't take collection calls while on the job. Other times, the collector has dealt with the same employer before and knows that the employer doesn't allow employees to conduct personal business during work hours. Finally, you can always put the collector on notice of your employer's policies. If you call the collector, write down the date, time, and substance of the call. Or, send a letter or email and keep a copy for your records.
Despite these restrictions, the debt collector can contact you at work if (1) you give your consent, or (2) a court order allows such communications.
If you think a debt collector has violated the FDCPA when trying to collect a debt from you, consider talking to an attorney to get advice about your options.