I am a restaurant manager with a contract that calls for bonuses. We didn’t get our bonus last quarter. Can I sue in small claims court?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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I am a restaurant manager with a contract that calls for bonuses. We didn’t get our bonus last quarter. Can I sue in small claims court?

I am a manager at a Buffalo wings and rings restaurant. I have a contract that says I get a 2 bonus based on profit. We got a check last 1st quarter but none this 2nd quarter. They refuse to show the profit and loss statements. I found 2 checks made out to a interior design person for work done on their personal home. They were filed in my folder by accident. So now I think they just don’t want to pay us and they think we have no option.

Asked on August 9, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Kentucky


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes, if you have a contract, you can sue to enforce its terms if you believe that they are violating it. To win, you would have to prove in court that they did in fact make a profit last quarter (and its amount/extent). That will require being able to see their P&L, etc. statements. That in turn will require being able to subpoeana them or get them through some other form of "discovery" (the legal mechanism of getting information and documentaton from the other side in a lawsuit). Check your state's small claims court rules--in many states (like mine: NJ), there is no discovery--no ability to get information or documents from the other side) in small claims court and so you could not effectively bring the action in small claims court. If there is no discovery in your small claims court, you may need to bring the lawsuit in regular county court, so as to have access to discovery, because if you can't get the documents, etc. in small claims court, you can't win--you can't prove the existence or extent of a profit. (And that then raises the issue of whether it would be economically worth suing if you could not do it in small claims court.)

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