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How can I collect unpaid wages for vacation pay and back-pay owed from a previous employer if they are no longer in business?

Austin, TX |

About 7 years ago I worked for a large athletic shoe company. I had transferred from a store in Laredo to another in Austin. The pay scale was different for the position I held from being minimum wage in Laredo to an increase in a little over $2. The manager assured me for several months that I would be receiving the difference soon, but I never did. I then asked to take my paid vacation and was approved to do so, so I did. Once I came back from my vacation I did not receive those wages on the check I was to do so either. At this point I was barley making it and struggling. Fed up with the managers promises that were never met I decided not to go back at all. Thankfully I was hired a month later by another company. I never was able to get this resolved.

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Attorney answers 1


If I understand your question properly, these questions are governed by state law and the law on these questions varies from state to state.

In New York, if you had acted promptly you MIGHT possibly have been able to utilize section 630 of the Business Corporations Law to hold the ten largest shareholders of the Company liable for the unpaid wages. You would have had to attempt to collect from the corporation first and notify the shareholders in a timely fashion that you would seek to hold them liable if you could not collect from the company proper.

Even in New York, however, it would be too late now to seek the unpaid wages in your situation. The statute of limitations on such claims (i.e., the time within you must act or forfeit your rights) is six years. You say in your question that you have waited 7 years. So, in my opinion, you would be out of luck.

You need to consult an employment attorney in your state to ascertain (a) whether you have a valid claim for unpaid wages at all; (b) in what amount; (c) when the claim accrued; (d) what the statute of limitations is on the claim; (e) whether the claim continues to be viable or is now time-barred; and (f) if it is still viable, whether there is any basis under the laws of your state for holding any shareholders (if there are any) liable for the corporation's unpaid wage claims. You might also attempt to ascertain whether the Company ever filed for bankruptcy and, if it did, whether there is still any possibility of still putting in a proof of claim. I doubt it, but again you should review that issue with local counsel.

Consider this to be a valuable lesson: You cannot sit on your rights. If you wait too long, your claims will be barred even if they once had merit. And, sometimes, the time within which you must act is very, very short. Good luck.

Disclaimer: This answer does not establish an attorney-client relationship or constitute legal advice. It is for general informational purposes only.