What are the legal actions that can be taken when a business agreement is unfulfilled by one of the parties?

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What are the legal actions that can be taken when a business agreement is unfulfilled by one of the parties?

I have been working under a business partner for nearly 10 years and have

recently found discrepancies in my income. We have negotiated multiple verbal

contracts which have not been honored by him based on thorough portfolio

analysis. I have compiled 4 years worth of information showing the losses I’ve

taken due to not being compensated what was agreed upon. I need to know what,

if any action can be taken in order to recover those wages. I have never been

in a legal situation so I am very unfamiliar with my options. My goal would be

to settle the dispute in mediation if possible where I would request the unpaid

wages be paid, as well as to dissolve the relationship to the him and his

company.

Asked on October 3, 2016 under Business Law, Oregon

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Ultimately, the only way to get money owed to you, such as under an oral (that's the better term than "verbal") agreement about compensation for work you did, assuming the other side will not voluntarily pay you, would be to sue the other side. A lawsuit is the only way to get money owed you when the other side refuses to honor its obligations.
Yes, there is a real risk they will discontinue employing you if you do sue them--the law does not require them to keep employing people suing them. You have to fundamentally decide whether its more important to you to, for now at least, continue working for/with them, even if you are being under- or short-paid, or whether there is so much at stake that you need to pursue the unpaid money, regardless of the consequences. While you need to make that decision yourself, based on your economics and your emotional needs (i.e. what will let you sleep at night?), one option to consider is finding different employment, so you are not dependent on this business, *then* suing them once you are not vulnerable. 
If you do decide to go ahead, if the amount is less than the limit for small claims court, sue in small claims, as your own attorney, or "pro se." If the amount is greater than that, keep trying to find an attorney--you'll need one to maximize your chance of recovering money.


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