Can I sue a former employer without paperwork or anything in writing stating that I ever worked there?

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Can I sue a former employer without paperwork or anything in writing stating that I ever worked there?

I started working for a nail salon last week. They never had me fill out an application. I was working a full 10 hour shift with no breaks, and she said she would pay me $50 a day, plus tips. I was forced to work on fungus feet with no gloves. They never sanitize tools in between clients and none of them have a nail tech license, like myself. I witnessed many illegal activities, paying people under the table, using blades to cut dead skin on the feet, etc . She broke her agreement and only paid me $20 cash for a full day of work. Then I questioned her about it and she fired me. I have witnesses.

Asked on July 24, 2011 Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) The good news, you can sue for the wages you are owed, even without a written agreement. An oral agreement to pay someone wages, salary, etc. in exchange for work is enforceable. The issue is proving the existence and terms of the agreement and also proving the hours or days worked.

2) Furthermore, if you were an employee, not an independent contractor, you may be entitled to more money than you had agreed to. An employee MUST be paid at leasts minimum wage ($7.25 per hour), plus overtime if she works than 40 hours in a week.

3) You can sue in small claims court if you like, so you can represent yourself and don't need an attorney; alternately, for some wage and hour violations, you are entitled to attorney's fees, so you may wish to consult with an employment attorney (many provide a free initial consultation), to see if one will take this case on a cost-effective (for you) basis.

4) While you may normally be fired for any reason, at any time, if you don't have an employment agreement limiting termination, one of the few reasons an employee at will *can't* be fired is that she brought a wage and hour complaint to the attention of management. So it may be the case that you have a claim for wrongful termination, too, and can seek reinstatement or forward-looking (not just back) wages. This is something else to discuss with an employment attorney in detail.

5) The health issues you cite will not themselves give you grounds to sue, though it's also illegal in many cases to fire someone for raising health and safety concerns, so this may give you another ground for a wrongful termination suit.


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