When a new business owner buys a store from another owner with less than 10 employees and doesn't know what happened to current employees paperwork, for example W-4's, that we understood from the Department of Revenue, can be transferred to the new owner from the previous owner. If the new owner doesn't know anything about the paperwork for employees what does this mean for the employees, is there any course of action to be taken. Any help is needed and appreciated. This owner told my girlfriend who worked there to ask the previous owner if the W-4's and stuff were transferred to him and he said to her, "I don't know. Call the previous owner."
This sounds like an issue to be resolved between the current owner and former owner. The purchase agreement signed by both parties should have contained terms that included the transfer of all important business records (employment/accounting/etc.) I cannot speak, of course, to the particulars of the agreement, but this would be a normal provision in most any business purchase agreement.
You can seek a business or contract attorney to review the document and take efforts to enforce the contract if one party is not upholding their side of the agreement. This issue, however, would likely be resolved by the new owner dealing directly with the former owner. It seems like litigation should be a last resort in this issue. If negotiation with the former owner does not yield the documents you need, definately document the fact that the records were not provided, and have all employees complete new copies of the necessary documents asap.
Ian has provided an excellent answer. Even if the former owner did not provide the new owner with its employees' paperwork, that will not excuse the new employer from complying with the law. You might look into whether the former employer had a CPA or payroll service. While they won't turn over documents, possibly they would pass a message along if you are having trouble to locate the former owner.
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