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Can I sue my spouse for unpaid wages if on paper I was an employee and worked but never got paid (he owns the company)

Bend, OR |

In divorce proceedings, he claims I have no rights to the business, as he owned it prior to marriage. I was supposed to be paid, but he refused my salary after we got married. i was naive and accepted his quarterly salary payment option he suggested in the beginning. i worked one quarter and got married just before pay date, then pay didn't come. some story company was short, so wait till next month. next month never happened. since then I have worked as endentured servant, without pay for his company.Can I either get 4 years back pay, or some sweat equity in the business. he will probably show the business to be in the red, when it comes to profits, and fix his records so that it looks like its value has not increased in the last 4 years.He fixed them with exwife.

he alters his financial records for loans, taxes, etc. and did so with the spouse before me. He will most likely claim I wasn't real employee and state I didnt work often or volunteered to help him just as his spouse. I traveled to business conf. and meetings and acted on behalf company in such capacity. He will dispute the original salary etc. there was a w-4 form. this will be his ploy to not pay me anything in divorce settlement. any suggestions?

Attorney Answers 2

Posted

Possibly. If the court determines that you were an owner of the company, it is possible, but unlikely that you could obtain wages. If the court determines that you were not an owner of the business, it may be possible to recover unpaid wages. If you were an employee and not an owner, then the court will be called upon to deterine (1) whetehr you worked, (2) how much you worked, (3) what your agreement for wages was, and (4) whether the agreement complied with Oregon and federal minimum wage laws.

In addition to unpaid wages, you may be able to recover penalties for any wages, minimum wages, overtime wages that was earned within the statutory period of time. Finally, you may be able to recover your attorney fees and costs in prosecuting such a claim.

Some firms offer free consultation and take wage cases on a contingency fee, essentially being paid to win.

Information is provided to assist the reader in forming questions and allow them to take full advantage of a consultation with the attorney of their choice. Schuck Law, LLC does not provide legal advice to individuals who have not signed a written fee agreement with the firm. The facts, which were not disclosed in the written question may change the advice, if any, that would be rendered by the attorneys at Schuck Law, LLC. For these and other reasons, Schuck Law, LLC is not responsible for any damages caused by the reader's use, mis-use, or interpretation of the information provided herein.

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Asker

Posted

would this suite be separate from the divorce then, as an employee? I was called an owner to customers, venders etc. however, I was not officially on the books. I had title, business cards, worked. What do I need to provide for proof of work? I have been barred from business on the day he was served a TRO.

Asker

Posted

also, what is the statuary time to file?

David A Schuck

David A Schuck

Posted

Six years for unpaid wages, three years for penalties, and two years for overtime wages and penalties under Oregon law. Under federal overtime law, it is possible to get a three year statute of limitations depending upon specific rulings of the court.

David A Schuck

David A Schuck

Posted

I do not know family law. Our firm only handles wage claims. So I can only look at it from the standpoint of a suit I know how to bring. It appears the other commenter believes it can be handled in the divorce. I would certainly recommend that you don't hide a choice to pursue the wage claim from your divorce attorney. They may be able to help each other.

James Baldock

James Baldock

Posted

You should consult a family law attorney. There was a similar appellate case and the court gave the wife a 50% equity stake in the company. The reasoning was if she worked for no wages she was an owner. Property divisions in a divorce are final. Business valuations are very complex and often only obtainable with significant discovery. I strong urge you to contact a family law attorney. If you proceed on your own an obtain an unfavorable outcome, that cannot be modified.

Asker

Posted

thank you. Should I be having one lawyer for the divorce, and a second specifically for this situation? Do divorce lawyers generally understand the labor laws and rights etc? So that 2 attorneys work on the issue together. As for the business, legally I think it was his, because he owned it for a long time prior to my marriage. However I worked there for him all this time. On books, I am sure he'll show no profit, or increase in value for the company. I have seen over the last couple years and months, how quickly he has the books adjusted by whichever bookkeeper he has, to meet his needs, either a negative, in the red or a positive. Will it make a difference if he shows the books in the red, or barely making it, because he has large loans. The nature of his business, is feast or famine with customers that pay in installments, and hold contracts to pay, months after they receive product. so, sometimes, they are broke, othertimes, flowing in funds. If my husband has extra funds, somehow he has them disappear to some reserve. It was very unsettling to see. He said he did this to keep the ex-wife, (before me) not to see business prospering. Odd, I know, but just what I saw and heard. He makes profit look good for bank loans. Would it be better then in this case to file for wages, rather than say part of the business, or does the success of the finances, not matter in a claim? Sorry lots of questions. thanks anyone for input?

James Baldock

James Baldock

Posted

You really need to bring documentation to a lawyer to review. This is not a good forum to answer your detailed questions. Just because he owned the business before the marriage does not mean that you don't own any part of the business the grew during the marriage.

Posted

I agree with my colleague's response, as it certainly seems that you have a viable claim one way or another. There are statutory time limitations on such claims, however, so you'd be well advised to pursue them sooner rather than later.

If you haven't already, you should consult with your divorce attorney about all of these issues, as a thorough understanding and valuation of the claim(s) is necessary, whether you attempt to pursue the employment related matters independently or whether they're pursued as part of the divorce proceedings (the latter being somewhat more typical).

If you found this answer helpful, please click the "Mark as good answer" button, below. If you'd like to contact me regarding potentially representing you with regards to your legal matter, please click on my profile and give my office a call. My answer to your Avvo question, however, is informational only and is not intended to be legal advice, nor does it form the basis for any attorney-client relationship whatsoever, which can only be formed upon signing an Engagement Agreement and depositing a Retainer Fee into client trust. Further, I am only licensed in Oregon and laws vary from state to state. If you have an Oregon-related issue, feel free to contact me for a consultation. If you are outside of Oregon, please consult an attorney in your area for legal advice.

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