I'm sorry to hear of your dilemma.
First of all, in situations like yours, it is critical
to differentiate between an enforceable written employment contract, and an offer of possible future compensation which will be in addition to your regular wages.
Perhaps you misunderstood the statement of the other attorney, but if you did not, I'm afraid that I have to disagree with that the statement.
Your failure to receive the bonuses either constituted a violation of the employment agreement to pay wages, or it did not. If the Labor Department could force the company to pay you because you really were owed the money---then the court would have the ability to grant a judgment to you as well.
Perhaps what was meant was that you could not win a case in court---but you could always file a complaint with the Labor Board. That, is true---though the board could only help you if you had an enforceable right.
Bonuses are generally tied to profits or performance or both---and unless the entitlement to that bonus is in writing as specifically laid out how it was to be calculated and when it was owed---then it would be considered not a guarantee, but only a possibility. And earning a bonus in previous years under a agreement with no specific guarantee would not somehow provide the basis to legally force a bonus in future years.
Similarly, while stock options or a cash payment in lieu of stock---unless specifically promised in a written employment contract---is not capable of being enforced.
Absent a solid, written employment Contract signed by both you and a representative of the company, you likely will not be able to enforce in court---or through the department of Labor---the payment of bonuses or the definition of stock acquisition. Another issue I see is that even had the agreement been in writing and otherwise enforceable---when the employer failed to meet their obligation by December 2007, you only had a period of 4 years from that time to institute a lawsuit to compel it or collect damages under the CA Statute of Limitations for written contract enforcement---I'm sorry.
I wish you the best in 2012.
I understand that you may be disappointed by the Answer you received, as it was not particularly favorable to your situation, nor was it what I sensed you were hoping to hear. Had I been able to provide an Answer which might have given you a successful legal outcome, it would have been my pleasure to do so.
Because I help people here, like you, for a living---this is not a hobby for me, and I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX abiding by the honor system as regards XXXXX XXXXX I wish you and your family the best in your respective futures.
Would you be so kind as to Accept my Answer so that I may be compensated for assisting you? Bonuses for greatly informative and helpful answers are very much appreciated. Thanks Again,