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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

California AG warns against unlawful employer-driven debt arrangements

State Issues State Attorney General California Consumer Finance Employer-Driven Debt Products

State Issues

On July 25, California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a Legal Alert to remind all employers of state-law restrictions on employer-driven debt. Bonta highlighted concerns about employers engaging in exploitative practices that lead to employees accumulating debts as a result of their employment. (Also covered by InfoBytes here). Such practices may include employers withholding wages, failing to reimburse necessary expenses, or charging fees that are unlawful under California labor laws.

The alert outlines that employer-driven debt arrangements may violate California Labor Code section 2802, “which mandates that employers ‘indemnify employees for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties.’” Regarding job training, the alert mentions that California law forbids employers from making workers repay training costs, except in two cases: (i) when the training is necessary for legally practicing the profession, and (ii) when the worker voluntarily undertakes the training, not due to employer mandate. The alert warns companies that engage in exploitative practices that the protections established in the Labor Code cannot be waived by contract. The alert also states that such practices risk violating the state’s Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which “prohibits an employer or its agent from engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices when attempting to collect on employer-driven debt.” Finally, the alert notes that if an employer takes advantage of a worker’s lack of information or knowledge about the risks or costs of the debt, they may violate the California Consumer Financial Protection Law.