California courts adhere to federal law under what is called the "economic realities test" to determine whether or not an employment relationship exists. Tony & Susan Alamo Found. v. Secretary of Labor, supra, 471 U.S. at 301, 105 S.Ct. at 1961.
Assuming that you were not merely a "volunteer:" someone laboring on behalf of the employer for personal pleasure or out of a sense of moral or charitable obligation, then you are an employee, and you are, at a minimum, entitled to minimum wage ($8.00 per hour, plus overtime) in exchange for your efforts.
This may seem to be a very small compensation, but over 3 years, it could add up to a substantial amount. It would also mean that the employer would have failed to remit FICA and medicare, unemployment, workers compensation, State Disability Insurance -- each of which carries with it, stupendous fines, some of which can be imposed personally on corporate officers and directors (including criminal prosecution), and which cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. So a finding by the IRS, Ca Employment Development Department or Ca Division of Labor Standards Enforcement of your status as an employee, could literally put the employer out of business.
You also have the option of attempting to prove in court your apparently oral contract with the employer that you would receive some specific amount of stock in exchange for your services rendered, or alternatively, try to prove that this was a joint venture, that you are a partner of the corporation, and that you are thus entitled to a proportionate share of any future profits generated by your partnership.
I realize that you are looking for some direct Labor Code section that guarantees you a share of the corporation. However, I am unaware of any such legal provision. Your dispute is principally a question of common law (judge-made law), and whether or not you are (1) a partner with the corporation entitled to a share of business profits, which could be evidenced by stock ownership, (2) an independent contractor entitled to the reasonable value of your services rendered, (3) an employee entitled to wages, and at least minimum wage, plus payroll taxes, with a right to convert those wages into stock under some agreement that you must prove.
And, the way that a person in your situation discovers his or her rights, is to hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit -- or, alternatively, complain to each of the relevant government agencies (IRS
), and let the government try to sort things out.
For a reputable employment rights attorney referral, see this link.
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