If you have a specific law-related question unrelated to one of the practice areas that we specialize in, feel free to make use of our Law Library. It contains relevant information related to each of the denoted areas of law listed below.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided in our Law Library is generic in nature and does not constitute legal advice. Viewing this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Changes in the law or the specific facts of your case may result in legal interpretations that are different from those presented in the information below.
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The following is the contact information for the three major credit reporting bureaus:
– Equifax: (800) 525-6285
– Experian (formerly TRW): (888) EXPERIAN, (888) 397-3742
– Trans Union1 (800) 680-7289
If the dispute over the completeness or accuracy of the entry is not resolved to your satisfaction, you should write a consumer statement of 100 words or less stating the nature of the dispute. The consumer reporting agency must then include the statement in all future reports. Information that is older than seven years, or 10 years in the case of judgments and bankruptcies, must be deleted from your file.
Collection agencies work on behalf of the creditor to recuperate the amounts owed by debtors. It is important to understand that the agency’s interests lie with your creditor and not with you. It is also important to understand that these agencies are highly professional and experienced in dealing with debtors.
Collection agencies get a percentage of debt collected. They may charge other fees for the time they put in, so they tend to be aggressive. A few may go overboard, which can work in your interest. There are legal constraints on the actions permitted of collection agencies. If they do act illegally you can sue or threaten action and get a renegotiation of the terms of your debt. Creditors understand this, and you must refer all unethical action of a collection agency to your creditor as well as to state or federal agencies that govern the activities of these agencies.
If you have a legitimate dispute with a creditor, make sure the collection agency knows the details of this. A number of agencies will not wish to deal with consumers with legitimate complaints against creditors. The collection agency is interested in recouping as much of the moneys owed as possible. But they and your creditor both realize that it may not be possible to recover 100 percent of the amount owed. Understand that you are in a bargaining position to the extent that the collection agency can convince your creditor to accept some fraction of the outstanding debt if this is within your means, and if you can make this payment over a shorter period or even in a lump sum. You will have to make a convincing case regarding your inability to repay the creditor.
If you are not working, send letters to your creditors and the collection agency explaining your situation and promising to set up a reasonable payment plan as soon as you get a job. If you have a job or if you get one, call every creditor and collector and tell them that you want to honor your debt. Determine ahead of time what you can afford to pay. Do not agree to a payment you know you cannot honor. If your creditor agrees to your payment proposal, fine. If not, send the payment anyway and make sure you send it every month without fail. Send by money order, not check. This will show good faith and reduce your bill. If this fails, you may wish to seek assistance from a local non-profit credit counseling service. You can formally request that a collection agency stop contacting you. After this, they are obligated to stop and may only contact you specifically to:
1. Note termination of collection procedure
2. Note specific impending formal action against you such as a lawsuit.
Behavior Forbidden of Collection Agencies By Law
To prevent abuse and overly aggressive behavior, the law forbids certain actions by collection agencies. A collection agency or its employees may not:
– Contact you at inopportune times. They must not contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
– Contact you at your place of employment if your working situation forbids this.
– Use harassing or abusive language in communication with you. This includes obscenity or clearly offensive language.
– Threaten to embarrass or publicly defame you or any other friends or relatives of yours.
– Make the nature and status of your debt public.
– Misrepresent themselves as anything other than what they are. They may not mislead you into believing they are agents of law enforcement or state or federal government.
– Make threats implying intended action that it does not intend to take. The agency must be precise about whatever legal action it proposes to take against you.Contact a third party except to determine your location. They may not contact a particular third party more than once unless the third party requests it or if the third party gives erroneous information to the collection agency.
– Inform a third party of your debt or of their status as a collection agency. Communication that divulges the nature of your debtor status is illegal.
– Intentionally make calls at your expense, e.g. through collect calls.
– Alter your outstanding debt by adding fees and interest charges foreign to your initial contract with the creditor or not mandated by law.
– Request a check from you post-dated by more than five days unless they inform you in sufficient time prior to depositing the check. This information must be given between three and ten days before check is deposited.
It is not uncommon for collection agencies to break a number of the laws described above. If you experience any of these, you may contact the Federal Trade Commission at (877) FTC-HELP (382-4357) or the State Department of Consumer Affairs at (800) 952-5210.
If you think you have been discriminated against by your employer, either because of your race, age, gender, religion, national origin or sexual orientation, the first step is to file a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”). This is the California state agency responsible for enforcing laws against discrimination in the workplace.
The DFEH conducts an initial investigation of each and every claim brought to their attention. In special cases, when the agency’s investigation finds evidence that an employer has done something very wrong, or they find discrimination taking place that is affecting many workers, the DFEH itself will step in as a claimant’s representative and basically act as that person’s attorney. In those cases, the DFEH may first try to negotiate appropriate remedies directly with a person’s employer or the agency might try to help a worker by obtaining relief through administrative proceedings. In the most special of cases, the DFEH will even go so far as to file a civil lawsuit on behalf of an employee subjected to workplace discrimination and prosecute the case in Superior Court.
However, because the problem of discrimination at work is still so pervasive, and there are so many complaints filed with the DFEH, the agency is only able to pursue a very small percentage of the problems brought to their attention. Therefore, it is important to remember that if the DFEH decides, based on its initial investigation, not to pursue your claim further, it does not mean you do not have a meritorious claim. Many people who have valid claims of on-the-job discrimination for which they legally deserve to be compensated are most often not represented by the DFEH. The state’s resources are simply too scarce to represent every person with a good case.
In the cases where the DFEH decides not to prosecute a person’s complaint (and remember: that’s the majority), the agency issues a “right-to-sue” letter and sends it to the claimant. Each person wanting to bring a lawsuit against his or her employer because of discrimination must have a right-to-sue letter before a lawsuit against the employer can be filed.
The law does not require that you have a right-to-sue letter before you consult with a private attorney about your discrimination claim, and many people may benefit from an attorney’s assistance in preparing a complaint to file with the DFEH. However, if you retain a private attorney to represent you, you will have to obtain a right to sue before your attorney can file a lawsuit in Superior Court.
At-will employment means that your employment relationship may be legally terminated at any time, without notice, and for any reason at all, or for no reason. If you quit, or your employer terminates you for any reason or no reason, neither you nor your employer is legally liable for ending your employment relationship.
However, there are two very important exceptions to this general rule. The most common exception is when an employer terminates an employee for a legally “bad reason.” The law protects people based on their membership in certain classes: race, religion, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation and national origin. If you are fired for any reason related to your race, religion, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation or national origin, then you may have a legal claim for wrongful termination and you may be entitled to compensation.
The other exception to at-will employment is one that has been created by the courts in recent years. Some California courts have found that, under certain circumstances, an at-will employment arrangement may develop in to something else that ultimately provides an employee with greater protections against termination without notice and without good cause. The primary factors the courts look for are if at-will employment has developed in to an employment arrangement where an employee can only be terminated for cause. This includes the number of years on the job and whether the employer has ever indicated to the employee (for example, in policy manuals, performance reviews or informal conversations) that he or she was certain to have ongoing, long-term employment with that employer. When such a situation occurs, the employee can only be terminated “for cause” because of his or her bad conduct or some other legally justified cause. If your employer has promised you ongoing, long-term employment and then fires you without cause, you may have a legal claim for wrongful termination and you may be entitled to compensation.
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, you should immediately contact the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the agency responsible for enforcing state laws regulating the workplace. Also, you should seek the advice of a private attorney familiar with employment law because an attorney could assist you in obtaining compensation for your claim.Making a false or Fraudulent Workers’ Compensation claim is a felony subject to up to 5 years in prison or double the value of the fraud, whichever is greater, or by both imprisonment and fine.