Everything You Need to Know About Racial Discrimination in the Workplace

It is against California law for an employer to discriminate against an individual based on his or her ethnicity or race. Employees who are harassed or discriminated against based on ethnicity or race could file a lawsuit against their employer for the damages done.

1. Could a California employer refuse to hire an individual because of his or her race or color?

No, an employer in California can’t refuse to bring on someone because of his or her race or ethnicity. Employment discrimination because of an individual’s race is a big violation of California state and federal law.

It is not legal for an employer with five or more employees to discriminate against a person based on race, as seen under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act .

2. What exactly is racial and ethnic discrimination?

Racial and ethnic discrimination often refers to treating an individual differently because of the location they were born in, the way they are seen, or because of their ethnicity. Color, race and ethnicity could have various meanings to different people. There is oftentimes a ton of overlap. But any discrimination based on color, race or ethnicity is not legal in California.

Racial discrimination could also involve national origin discrimination in employment is treating an employee or job applicant badly because they are from a certain country or appear to be from a certain ethnic background.

Ethnicity can refer to cultural characteristics based on where an individual was born or where their ancestors came from. This is the same as the definition of national origin under California law. National origin refers to a person’s place of birth or original heritage. The laws against race discrimination are not only limited to employers. These laws also apply to labor organizations and unions. These are prohibited from expelling, excluding or restricting membership to an individual based on color or race.

A Person’s Perceived Race

Racism in employment is not legal even if the person is wrong about the victim’s ethnicity. The California employment laws against discrimination based on race or color also also apply to the race or color that is perceived. It is not a defense to racial discrimination if the employer has made an error about the applicant’s race or color.

For instance, an employer conducting an interview might choose not to hire an applicant because the employer does not trust Chinese people. The applicant was actually a United States citizen, born in America to parents from South Korea.

If the applicant files a complaint against the employer for race discrimination, the fact that the employer has made an error about the applicant’s race is not a defense. The employer might still be in violation of workplace discrimination laws for any discrimination based on race.

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3. Can you be discriminated against by someone from the same race?

An employer could discriminate against someone from the same race. California’s employment discrimination laws are not based on the employer’s race but make any race discrimination not lawful.

Do you have a question about race discrimination in the workplace? Click here to contact Von Esch Law today!

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Why You Need a Lawyer to Prepare and Review Your Contract

What is Contract Preparation?
A contract is a legally binding agreement. Contracts could be written or oral, but most important contracts are often written and signed by both parties. Contracts are the foundation of your business, and might be simple or extremely complex. Examples of contracts include sales agreements, employment contracts, real estate purchase contracts, and confidentiality agreements.

Preparing a contract is the act of writing out the terms and details of the contract, in order to outline the legal obligations of both parties, so that they fully understand the terms of the agreement and their respective duties towards each other. Contracts can be drafted by anyone, but a lawyer is often needed in order to make a reliable and secure contract, especially for the more complex contracts.

How are the Contracts Prepared?
Contracts might appear in many different forms, but one of the most used contracts is a standard form contract. A standard form contract, or standardized agreement is a contract between two parties, where the contract is prepared by one of the parties, and the other party has little or no ability to negotiate the terms that are more favorable for them. Common instances of adhesion contracts include insurance policies, housing and apartment leases, and tickets to events or shows.

What is a Contract Review?
To simply put it, a contract review is when a person signing the contract carefully reviews the document or has a lawyer review the document. This is to ensure you fully understand the terms and conditions of the contract.

Contract review is an essential step to make sure that there are little to no contract disputes in the future. When a contract dispute occurs, the first thing that the courts look at is the language of the document itself. If a problem were to happen, both parties could refer to the contract and pinpoint what is expected of them.

A clearly written and easily understood contract could reduce confusion between the parties. But if a contract is not written clearly, legal issues might arise. Therefore, it is imperative to thoroughly review or have an attorney perform a complete review of any contract before you sign it.

Since contracts could be lengthy and have become increasingly complex, most people often skim over paragraphs and do not actually know what they are signing. Having a qualified business lawyer look over your contract or contract draft may save you from a legal mess down the road.

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Should You Hire a Lawyer to Assist with Contract Drafting and Review?
Preparing and understanding contracts could be a very complex process. It might be in your best interests to consult with our knowledgeable and well qualified business attorneys.

Our experienced business attorneys will assist you from start to finish through the contract drafting and reviewing process and safeguard you against any complications. We will also help prevent other legal issues that arise from a poorly written contract and represent you in court, if needed.

Do you have a question about contract preparation and review? Click here to contact Von Esch Law today!

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Your Guide to Sexual Harassment Laws in California

If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, you are definitely not alone. According to one current EEOC study, one out of four every women and one out of every five men have experienced the misfortune of sexual harassment.  

You only need to read the news or do a search of the “me too” hashtag to find endless stories of disturbing conduct, much of which amounts to sexual harassment inside the workplace.

Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Quid pro quo is a Latin term meaning this for that. The term means the idea of an exchange. In this case, quid pro quo harassment happens when someone conditions your continued employment, hiring, promotion or benefits on your submission to sexual advances or some other kind of sexual behavior. Quid pro quo harassment could be meant as an offer or threat.  This type of sexual harassment is considered extreme enough that a single incident can give rise to liability.

Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

This type of sexual harassment happens when the nature of the offending behavior is so pervasive or severe that it unreasonably interferes with your work, alters the conditions of your employment or makes an intimidating or offensive workplace. You could experience and suffer from a hostile work environment even if the behavior is not directly aimed at you.

A single act of sexual harassment may be extreme enough to be unlawful.Behavior that is less severe might also become so pervasive that it becomes unlawful, even if the single incident on its own wasn’t particularly offensive or hostile. The legal test of whether or not something qualifies as a hostile work environment sexual harassment includes both objective and subjective components.

Who will be liable for sexual harassment claims in California?

Under the California law, an employee who is the perpetrator of the sexual harassment is personally liable for damages to their victim regardless of whether or not the employer was aware or should have known about the harassment.

Employers are held strictly liable if the sexual harassment was at the hands of a supervisor or if the perpetrator of the harassment was the employer. This means that if the harassment was perpetrated by the supervisor, the employer is responsible for the victim’s damage whether or not the employer was aware or should have known about it and regardless of whether or not they took corrective action.

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While some interpretations of California sexual harassment can evoke some uncomfortable laughs, sexual harassment is very far from a laughing matter and could cause serious trauma for its victims. This also does not stop harassers from claiming the offending behavior was just a mere joke. In few cases cases, it might actually be the perpetrator’s misguided intention to be funny.  But it is not just the harasser’s intent that matters. It’s how an objective person would react and the impact of that behavior that results in whether or not the behavior constitutes sexual harassment. 

Do you have a question about sexual harassment laws in California? Click here to contact Von Esch Law today!

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4 Ways to Protect Yourself From Business Fraud

Every company is susceptible to fraud. This is largely because there are so many different kinds of fraud.

Cybercriminals adapt their ways almost as quickly as cyber security firms make new products and services. It is almost impossible to protect against every type of attack.

1. Secure Your Accounts

If you have not made separate bank and credit card accounts for your personal life and company, you should do so now. If cyber hackers get their hands on one account, they will not have access to the other. Make sure to look into the security systems your bank uses online banking to be sure things like automatic logout are available. Make a monitored reimbursement policy for team member expenses and stick to it. If you are going to give credit cards to your employees,  be sure that the card provider has suitable fraud protections in place.

2. Safeguard your computers

Hackers are experts at cracking systems in computers. A firm firewall could help protect your business data, while antivirus software could help detect breaches early on. There are several cyber security vendors. Look for the product that best addresses your needs. You should set up strict protocols that require employees to make passwords that are hard to decipher. Make sure to have your employees change their passwords every sixty to ninety days.

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3. Do an employee background check

When you are expanding your workforce, it is critical to find people who are not only well-qualified but who are also trustworthy. Do not rely only on references and work history. Make sure to conduct a thorough background check.

There are companies that could provide this service for you. Many of them charge between thirty to fifty dollars per report. When you narrow down the list of potential hires to one or two, you could run a check on the finalists prior to making your final decision. You should make sure you obtain proper permission to run the check

4. Make a secure entry

A secure entry system could keep out unwanted visitors. Some key-card systems bring out time-stamped records of an employee’s entries and exits from your office.

Management can also limit access to specific areas to certain people. For example, you could use a key card system to only let the tech managers inside the server room. Limiting the access to sensitive areas will keep you and your business safer.

Do you have a question about business fraud in California? Click here to contact Von Esch Law today!

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Workplace Pregnancy Protection Laws in California

California law brings significant protection for pregnant employees.  In addition to prohibiting discrimination or harassment in regards to pregnancy status, the law California requires an employer to allow an employee disabled by childbirth, pregnancy or related medical conditions to take a leave of absence and to maintain her health insurance during the pregnancy leave.  It also mandates the employer to provide other forms of reasonable accommodation as necessary. The requirements to the pregnancy discrimination regulations that took effect seven years ago expanded the protections in several regards, including an expanded definition of the conditions that might render a woman disabled by pregnancy and the extension of protections to employees perceived as pregnant or disabled by pregnancy even if she is not actually pregnant.

The depth of protection for pregnant employees under the California law presents a challenge for companies and creates a number of varied issues and legal claims.  But one aspect of these laws that causes or contributes to some of the issues related to pregnancy we see has to do with a fundamental aspect of the laws that does not get a lot of discussion:  To stay compliant with the laws and avoid claims for pregnancy discrimination, an employer needs to have common sense.

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If a pregnant woman is unable to perform the essential functions of her job, the employer is mandated to treat her as a temporarily disabled employee. This means that the employer must make the same accommodations as it would for an employee who cannot perform some or all of his or her job functions due to a temporary disability. This might include changing some of the job functions, having the pregnant employee do alternative functions or offering the employee paid or unpaid leave.

Employers aren’t required to give pregnant employees preferential treatment. Their duty is to treat them equal to other employees and not to discriminate against them in any employment decisions because of the pregnancy. Employers are allowed to terminate pregnant employees for excessive absences from work, even if those absences were caused by reasons related to pregnancy.

California law requires that an employer does not act on those assumptions but to instead handle each situation as unique and not one in which the employer’s history might repeat itself. To many businesses and managers not as familiar with California law, making decisions that ignore experiences in the past and common sense may seem bad for business. But in dealing with issues related to pregnant employees, employers need to in some extent ignore what has happened in the past with pregnant employees and resist making decisions based on what it expects to happen no matter how likely the outcome will be predicted. A busy manager concerned about staffing and meeting the needs of the company might understandably find it hard to do so.  But even an absence of any hostility toward the pregnant employee and a singular focus on preparing for the very real possibility that the pregnancy and the employee’s plans after pregnancy will adversely affect business will not necessarily protect the employer. When dealing with pregnancy topics in the workplace, good intentions and reliance on past experience might not provide a defense.

Do you have a question about pregnancy laws in the workplace in California? Click here to contact Von Esch Law today!

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Here’s A Basic Understanding of Workers Compensation Laws in California

Workers Compensation Law in California is a no-fault system developed to help both employees and company rights. The company needs to supply workers’ compensation advantages no matter the fault, since the employee gives up the right to sue the company. Workers’ Compensation laws are created to safeguard both the worker and the company in case of an injury on the job. California workers’ compensation laws offer insured coverage to employees for medical care for their injury and bring guaranteed compensation during and after the recovery of their injuries.

Even though these laws are primarily designed to protect the employee, the advantage to employers is that they put limits on the amount of compensation that can be collected from them. Many employers would ultimately rather pay for workers’ compensation insurance than be forced to pay a larger sum after losing a case. The laws also have benefits for dependents of workers who die on the job and help shield coworkers from virtually any liability.

You don’t need to have a workers’ compensation lawyer to file a claim. But it would be extremely helpful to talk with or get an attorney for your case. Our lawyers can assist you navigate the workers compensation law system the right way through court deadlines, representing you properly, managing disagreements, advising for additional resources and acting as your legal support through the court process. It can be especially valuable for you to talk to a lawyer if you are not sure the way to proceed with your claim. If you feel you are being dealt with unfairly by the insurance company or by your employer or if you have a disability long term, contact our office immediately.

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What is Workers Compensation?

California has its own system when it comes to comprehensive workers’ compensation. This system is the DWC Office or Division of Workers’ Compensation Claims office. The work related injuries laws exist to protect employees from financial burdens when they are unable to work because of job related injuries. Injured workers would be forced to sue their own employers in civil court without this system. It would be up to them to prove that their injury was due to the employer’s negligence. This could be a lengthy process and there is no guarantee that they would win.

Workers’ Compensation Law requires all employers with at least one employee to have California Workers Compensation Benefits insurance. This comprises of all temporary employees and corporate officers of the company. The law extends to employers who are out of state as well and who might have employees that regularly work in California. It covers both repeated exposure, one time events and certain psychological injuries caused by the job that are stress related.

Benefits generally have the following:

1.) Medical care covers tests, doctor visits, treatment services, medication and necessary travel costs related to care

2.) Temporary disability benefits covers any lost wages incurred during recovery.

3.) Permanent disability benefits cover injured workers who do not recover and are unable to return to work.

4.) Job displacement benefits helps pay for retraining if a worker is unable to qualify for permanent disability and unable to return to their old job.

5.) Death benefits distribute payments to an injured worker’s spouse or dependents if they pass away due to job-related illness or injury.

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Learn 7 Steps to Avoid Business Fraud

All businesses should take the time to mitigate any risks of fraud. Smaller and mid-sized operations are vulnerable to business fraud, and the after effects can be devastating for everyone involved.

Business fraud usually falls into three different categories: theft, financial statement fraud, and asset misuse. The vast majority of business fraud schemes are related to outright theft, such as stealing cash or claiming fraudulent expenses, and asset misuse, like granting kickbacks.

Business fraud can be tough to tackle, especially for smaller businesses who might be tight-knit and incorporate many family members. Considering your employees as friends or family can make it hard to confront cases of business fraud and theft. Plus, smaller businesses usually have less financial oversight, less knowledge on fraud schemes, and remain vulnerable to even small instances of fraud (since they can completely derail operations).

If you are looking to avoid business fraud, keep these seven steps in mind as you operate your enterprise.

Separate Accounting: Smaller businesses usually have one person who works on everything pertaining to finance. This system makes it easy for people to skim the company and misdirect money to other places. All businesses should have at least two people working on the finance side, or develop a relationship with an accounting firm on the outside.

Learn About Employees: Most business fraud is carried out by an employee on the inside. Take the time to really understand an employee’s background and knowledge before hire. Background checks should be a necessity, along with occasional time off, since this could expose a scheme in place.

Run A Tight Ship: All businesses need to be very careful about who has financial knowledge. This means restricting access to account information, building a verification system for reimbursements, and carrying out audits on accounting books.

Watch Your Bank Accounts: Online banking makes it easy to check out accounts and statements at any time. Be sure to compare the online data with your paper copies to make sure everything is on the same page. Watch out for checks that are not in order and strange payment recipients, who could be the benefactors of a scam.

Properly Train Employees: One of the best ways to avoid business fraud is to train workers on how to spot it. Encourage them to report strange behavior through an anonymous system and craft a business code of ethics to keep everyone accountable.

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Protect All Credit Card Numbers: Credit card fraud is becoming a popular way for people to steal money from businesses. A good way to ward this off is to separate all business and personal accounts. This keeps funds safe on both sides if the other accounts are breached by credit card fraud. All businesses should be very careful about who they give out credit card numbers too and use online payment services to mitigate any risks.

Audit Regularly: Businesses should subject themselves to regular audits on all financial activity to stay accountable. Non-scheduled audits, especially if they are from an outside source, can help detect fraud that might have gone unnoticed otherwise. Many companies are experienced at carrying out audits for businesses of all sizes and will give valuable advice about warding off business fraud in the future.

Keep the above seven steps in mind to fight against business fraud. It can strike a business of any size, but good due diligence will keep your operations safe and protected.

Do you have a question about business fraud? Click here to contact Von Esch Law today!

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Here Are 2019 Changes to Alimony Laws in California

Alimony law is often very confusing and comes with a lot of moving parts. There are a few changes in California alimony law that have come into effect for 2019 and should be taken note of.

One of the biggest 2019 changes has to with spousal support. Previously, spousal support was tax deductible for the spouse that way paying and was taxable income for the spouse that was receiving it. Now, alimony will no longer be tax deductible, and the recipient spouse will not have to pay any taxes on it.

This big change to alimony law came due to the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which scrapped a 75-year old spousal support payment tax stipulation. The new law came into effect on January 1st . Divorce agreements signed on or before December 31st, 2018, will not be affected by the new rules.

The change of the law relating to taxation and alimony means divorce negotiations will most likely become trickier, especially if the spouses were wealthy, since these types of people often benefited the most from the tax deductions pertaining to alimony.

Some think it will lead to smaller spousal support payments because the tax advantages with a larger sum are now lost. The alimony tax deduction before the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act change was a strong bargaining tool in divorce proceedings, but many see this advantage as a relic of the past due to the new stipulations.

If you signed an agreement of separation or divorce before the end of 2018, and the support order is modified after the start of 2019, the pre-2019 tax rules still remain in effect. The only exception to this rule would be if there is a specific clause in the agreement that says otherwise. You will want to have a lawyer review the separation or divorce agreement if you are not sure which tax law you will be subject to.

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All payments must qualify as spousal support or alimony in order to be tax deductible under the pre-2019 legal standards. Payments that qualify as spousal support only are eligible if the spouses do not file a joint tax return, if the payment is made under a legal divorce agreement, and if the actual funds are in the form of cash, a check, or a money order.

Additionally, spousal support must not be treated as child support and is not able to be part of the settlement of any property.

Some have questioned if they are able to pay more in child support to offset any of the changes under the new alimony law. Child support is never deductible and it is not counted as taxable income by the person who is receiving it.

Divorce proceedings are a tricky affair that can often take a lot of time and energy to move through. A good lawyer will not rush the process but will make sure that everything is taken care of and both sides are satisfied with the arrangement. However, the changes to alimony law can be very confusing and can change a lot of the divorce aspects depending on your situation.

As a result, be sure to speak with an experienced and professional divorce and alimony attorney as soon as possible so you can get up to speed with the new changes, especially if your divorce agreement is dated on or after January 1st, 2019.

Do you have a question about alimony laws in California? Click here to contact Von Esch Law today!

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Here Are 5 Reasons Why You Should Have a Lawyer Review Your Contracts

Being a business owner comes with a lot of work and you will have to review and look through a lot of paperwork that comes across your desk.

Part of the process for businesses is signing contracts and agreements with other people or companies who you want to work with. Flipping through these documents can be a tedious task, especially if the other party in an agreement comes with their own contracts to sign.

You might be tempted just to sign off on any agreement that comes by, but this can be a big mistake. It is always better to have an experienced lawyer review your contracts, even if you believe they are ironclad. This is especially true if another party brings their own contract or wants to revise parts of yours before they sign.

Here are a few reasons why you should hire a lawyer to review your contracts.

1) Hiring legal counsel will save you a lot of time and money as opposed to trying to solve problems down the road that emerged from a bad contract. A good lawyer will be able to advise you about certain terminology in contracts and be able to help you to articulate your thoughts into words that will give all parties in the contract the proper protection.

They will also be able to review your business structure and ideas and give advice about the potential pitfalls down the road that can be avoided with a good contract. All of this will be significantly cheaper than trying to fix problems after they occur.

2) A lawyer who reviews contracts serves as a valuable outside pair of eyes for your business. Many entities write and see contracts as just a tool to make money, or to market in a particular way. This can cloud the judgment of those actually writing contracts, potentially setting up problems in the future. Lawyers often look at contracts every day for clients who work in a number of industries. They will be able to look at yours with an objective perspective that will not be a distraction to other work and operations.

3) Having a lawyer review your contracts gives you a sense of legal protection if something does go wrong. If you just review your contracts, all the litigation is going to be on you because there will be no recourse. If your lawyer looks at one, then they can potentially be sued if something goes wrong.

4) Having a lawyer review a contract can make you more competitive in the long run. Other parties who want you to sign their contract usually have it written with their best interests in mind. Signing these can really hurt you down the road. Having an independent review of any contract gives you peace of mind to know a contract will not be egregiously advantageous to one party or the other, and might even help your future competitiveness in comparison to other businesses. A good lawyer is going to understand the legal terms in contracts that could have serious consequences and will be able to draw on their expertise to advise about what to watch out for.

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5) Very few business owners have any sort of knowledge when it comes to contracts. It’s always smart to stick with what you know and hire the experts to fill the gaps. Lawyers bring a lot more experience to the table when it comes to employment issues, leases, and business agreements.

Do you have a question about getting a lawyer to review your contracts? Click here to contact Von Esch Law today!

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What You Need to Know About California Collection Laws

Navigating through debt collection law in California can be tricky. There are a lot of moving parts inside of pertinent legislation that can be hard to keep up with. However, no matter your situation, there are a few important factors to keep in mind as you work through the collections process.

The primary collection law in California is the California Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This mandates that debt collectors and creditors are required to treat people due for collections in a fair manner. They are not allowed to be deceptive, unfair, or engage in an abusive manner when it comes to debt collection so the process can be fair for both sides.

As per the Act, all entities, including the agencies collecting debt, are regulated. This means anyone contacting you to pay off bills or dies should be in full compliance with the Act. It also means a number of other entities,such as the attorneys involved in debt collection activities, and the companies who actually make debt collection tools, should be in compliance with the Act. Do not let anyone try to manipulate you into thinking they do not have to be in compliance with the Act. California laws are strict when it comes to debt collection.

However, it is important to note debt collectors in the state are not mandated to have a license, since agencies underwent deregulation in the 1980s. These collectors are not even required to have a local business license to start and continue operations.

Debt collectors are under limits on how much they can communicate with debtors. They are not allowed to use profane language, must disclose their information, and are not allowed to call repeatedly or harass you with calls while you are busy on the phone. Additionally, they are not allowed to lie to you in a manner that causes you to spend more money than you needed to, like if they try to get you to call a long-distance number for an extra charge.

Debt collectors in California must protect the privacy of all debtors, as per the law. Regulations say they are allowed to send debt reports to a credit reporting agency, but they are very limited in the other information they can give out. Envelopes from collectors can not have any details about debt on the outside, and the law says debt collectors are not allowed to publish your information in a public setting if you do not pay.

California collection laws gives debtors a lot of protection and options if a agency breaks they law. If a collector breaks the Act, you can file a complaint with the state attorney general, sue the debt collector in court, or get in touch with federal authorities who are in charge of enforcement of debt collection laws.

Overall, the best way to stay out of the way of debt collectors is to pay your debts on time and in full. While legislation in California does provide protections against predatory debtors and ones who are abusive, you are still required to pay off debts, and these agencies can be very persistent when it comes to getting their money.

Be sure to clear your debts as quickly as possible so you do not have to deal with the debt collectors and subject yourself to worry and stress about their tactics and methods.

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If you do engage with a collector, be sure to study relevant laws so you understand what collection agencies are and are not allowed to do as they engage with you. Don’t be afraid to report a debt collector if they break the law.

Do you have a question about collection laws in California? Click here to contact Von Esch Law today!

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