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CFPB and NLRB to share info on employer-driven debt practices and illegal surveillance
On March 7, the CFPB and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) entered into an information sharing agreement to create a formal partnership for addressing unlawful practices involving employer surveillance and employer driven debt. The agencies stressed in the joint announcement that their Memorandum of Understanding will help identify and end employer practices that cause workers to incur debt by forcing them to pay for employer-mandated training or equipment that they might not need, or that surveil workers and sell their personal data to financial institutions, insurers, and other employers. These actions, the agencies said, may violate the FCRA and other consumer financial protection laws. As previously covered by InfoBytes, last June the Bureau launched an inquiry into employer-driven debt practices. The request for information focused on debt obligations incurred by consumers in the context of an employment or independent contractor arrangement, and sought information on “prevalence, pricing and other terms of the obligations, disclosures, dispute resolution, and the servicing and collection of these debts.”
“Many workers discover that getting a job can mean piling up debt instead of making a living,” CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said in the announcement. “Information sharing with the [NLRB] will support our efforts to end debt traps that stop workers from leaving one job for another.” NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo agreed, adding that as the “economy, industries and workplaces continue to change, we are excited to work with CFPB to strengthen our whole-of-government approach and ensure that employers obey the law and workers are able to fully and freely exercise their rights without interference or adverse consequences.”
CFPB launches inquiry into employer-driven debt practices
On June 9, the CFPB issued a request for information (RFI) seeking public input on practices and financial products that may cause an employee to owe a debt to their employer. The Bureau’s focus is on debt obligations incurred by consumers in the context of an employment or independent contractor arrangement, including training repayment agreements where employees are required to repay the costs of job training should they voluntarily or involuntarily leave a job within a set time period. Other employer-driven debt products include up-front purchases of equipment or other supplies that are not paid for by the employer—a common occurrence when workers are outsourced or classified as independent contractors. Among other things, the RFI seeks information on “prevalence, pricing and other terms of the obligations, disclosures, dispute resolution, and the servicing and collection of these debts.” The Bureau is particularly interested in whether consumers “have a meaningful choice” in agreeing to these products, what these agreements’ terms and conditions are, and whether they might prevent individuals from seeking alternative employment. “The labor market operates at its best when workers are able to move freely within it,” CFPB Director Rohit Chopra said in the announcement, noting that the inquiry will study “the effects of an emerging form of debt that may have the potential to trap employees in place.”