"I have horrible credit and I paid this guy who guaranteed me he would wipe my credit clean organically and increase my credit score by attaching a "trade line" to my credit , which will piggy back off someone who has perfect credit therefor increasing my scores tremendously within 90 days, I paid him $1,300 in August/ September and I haven't seen an increase or anything removed from my credit. I contacted him on several occasions and he give me the run around. Told him he lied, breeched the contract and didnt perform the duties/job he agreed to do. From there I demanded a refund. He told me no, and that his contract said he had up to a year. I told him I'd just sue him. He told me he working on it. It's March and I've seen no change in my credit. He promised me a credit score of 700+. What can I do? I'm out of the money and I'm going through a hardship. I feel embarrassed, stuck, and robbed. I have records from my bank of the checks he's cashed from my account as payment for credit repair. "
George Gardner, III: Building and maintaining a strong credit profile is one of the most difficult responsibilities of adult life. It’s shameful that predators posing as legitimate business people take advantage of folks who are under enough stress already. Fortunately, the federal government has addressed this problem by creating the Credit Repair Organizations Act. The law prohibits deceptive practices by credit repair organizations and gives you the right to sue an organization that violates it. And rest assured, the law defines “credit repair organization” to include “any person.”
Even before asking you to sign a contract, this person should have given you a written statement of your rights entitled “Consumer Credit File Rights Under State and Federal Law.” That statement notes some important rights for anyone with a credit report, including: (1) you can dispute any inaccurate information in your credit report by contacting the credit bureau directly; (2) neither you, nor any credit repair organization, has a right to remove “accurate, current, and verifiable information” from your credit report; but (3) a credit bureau must remove negative information from your credit report, even if it is accurate, if it is over 7 years old (over 10 years old for bankruptcy information).
It seems that the person you’re dealing with has violated the law in several ways. First, and most importantly, a credit repair organization cannot charge you for its services before it has fully performed those services. This person has clearly violated the law by taking your money before doing what he promised. Second, no one (and no contract) can force you to give up your right to have the services performed first—any attempt to do so is also a violation of the law. It appears that this person did exactly that when he suggested that he can keep your money because the contract says he has “up to a year.” Based on what you’ve shared, he has probably violated other provisions of the law too (but in ways that require more space than I have to explain).
In addition to suing the person who has taken your money, you can report him and his organization to your state attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission. That said, it would probably be a good start to inform him that you know your rights, that he has violated the Credit Repair Organizations Act in multiple ways, and that you can sue him and report him to state and federal authorities. Given his obvious violations of the law, and that you have proof that he has taken your money, he would be foolish not to return your $1300 immediately.
I wish you the best in resolving this situation and, ultimately, in rebuilding your credit.
"What is considered sexual harassment in the work force today? I just had someone ask me to see my “buff body.” (Of course, I did not respond.) Was I just sexually harassed?"
Charles F. Coleman, IV: If there are any two words that are unrivaled in their ability to inspire discomfort in the workplace, they are “sexual harassment” (note: in a multi-way tie for runner-up were the following: “staff meeting," “staff picnic," “group project” and “bonding exercise”). Sexual harassment is something that no one should have to endure anywhere, and many are terrified to be accused of. Since the conversation regarding sexual harassment in the workplace went from quiet whispers behind closed doors to front and center in the boardroom (due, in no small part to the courageousness of Anita Hill back in 1992), many have struggled to make sense of it and, what to do about it in a work context.
In my best Buckshot Shorty voice: “Don’t front…you know I got you covered.”
Sexual harassment usually takes two different forms. There’s quid pro quo sexual harassment (“How bad do you really want that raise?” for ex.) and hostile work environment (whistles, inappropriate comments, catcalling, etc.) To put it succinctly and in plain speak, sexual harassment is any behavior motivated by sex that is unwelcome or unwanted. This can include comments, touching, other behaviors where it is communicated to the harasser that the behavior is undesired. It doesn’t have to rise to the level of vulgarity, but could be as simple as repeated references to an employee as something other than their name (ie “Good morning, sweetie. Do you have those files, babe? You look great, suga.”). If it makes someone uncomfortable, then it qualifies. It also extends further in that sexual comments which may not be directed at a particular person but that a person observes and finds offensive can still be considered sexual harassment. Additionally, inappropriate “jokes”, displayed pictures, etc. in a work setting can be also be considered part of a hostile work environment based on sex. So, let’s do a quick review, shall we?
-John and Jill are co-workers. John asks Jill out. Jill says yes.
Sexual harassment? Nope.
-John asks Jill out. Jill says “Not interested. Thanks.” John keeps asking Jill.
Sexual harassment? Yup.
-John asks Jimmy about the size of his…um…package.
Sexual harassment? Yup. The gender of the harasser and the victim do not matter.
In the example given by the reader, the “buff body” comment is likely not appropriate for a workplace scenario, but consideration will be given to whether the relationship between the speaker and co-worker had included such language or references in the past. For example, lewd comments between two friends in the work place who have vulgar mouths and share jokes will not be viewed in the same way as the same comments made to a new employee who is a complete stranger. That is not to suggest that sexual harassment can’t occur between friends; if it is communicated that it is unwanted and unwelcomed, and it persists, then it is sexual harassment. The key is clearly communicating to the harasser that the behavior is unwelcome and unwanted.
So, what should you do in a situation where the behavior is just that and you are being sexually harassed? A few things:
1) You should be as clear and direct as possible with the harasser, informing them that their behavior is not welcome or wanted and you are uninterested.
2) Familiarize yourself with your job’s employee handbook. It will almost always contain your job’s procedures and avenues for reporting workplace harassment. Many employers today offer toll-free hotlines where workers can call and anonymously make complaints about sexual harassment. Whatever the procedures are, make sure you avail yourself of at least one of the routes to report the behavior to a manager or supervisor. The reason for this is because if you try to skip this step of following internal protocols and allowing your job to handle the matter internally, you run the risk making your claim less actionable if you pursue it in court.
3) If you’ve complained to a manager or supervisor or human resource person and they have done nothing to address it (or, if you find yourself in a situation where that manager or supervisor is the harasser), then report it to the US EEOC and your local human rights organizations. Do not worry about retaliation—you are protected by Federal law. You just have to take the first step and let the process to the rest.
Even though sexual harassment may not take front and center on the news the way that it did 20+ years ago, it is still a prevalent problem which cannot go unchecked in the workplace. If you or a friend/loved one believes that they are being sexually harassed or exposed to a hostile work environment, take it seriously and report it. You have the information. Now, it’s up to you to take the first step.
Got questions? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
*DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this column should be construed as legal advice and is offered as information only. Readers are advised to consult an attorney with knowledge of the specific state laws within their local jurisdictions.
Charles F. Coleman Jr. is a former Kings County (Brooklyn), NY prosecutor and presently functions as a federal trial attorney. Follow him on Twitter: @CFColemanJr.
George C. Gardner III is a graduate of the Howard University School of Law and has practiced in government, nonprofit, and private sector settings. His experience includes constitutional civil rights law, commercial litigation, and transactional matters in the small business context. He is licensed in the State of New York where he has recently transitioned into solo and freelance practice. Follow him on Twitter: @ggiii.