Okay, thanks. Here's the deal.
In order to be an owner of a corporation, a person must hold shares in the corporation. A person who does not buy into the corporation can earn his or her way in over time, by diverting earnings/salary/wages to the purchase of shares; or the person can be granted shares in exchange for no direct payment -- but those shares would represent taxable income to the grantee.
Your allegations suggest that you were never issued shares, no earnings were diverted to their purchase -- and you never paid anything for any shares. Therefore, you are not an owner/shareholder of the corporation. You could sue for fraud, on the theory that you were tricked by a more savvy business person into believing that you had an ownership
interest, but since no 1099 was ever issued to you for the value of your shares, nor any W-2 deductions showing that the shares were paid for or valued, there is a question as to whether or not you -- someone who states in your own allegations that you are an experienced businessperson, could have been defrauded.
I realize that you believe you were tricked, and perhaps you were -- but for the purposes of this analysis, I am taking the position of an neutral decision maker (i.e., a judge), who has no idea of anything in the case, other than that which can be proved in the court record. And, so far, you will have a difficult time proving that you were offerred a share ownership in the business, absent some document or testimony
from someone who was in a position to know of the ownership offer -- or who overheard your ex-partner admit that you were supposed to be an equal owner of the corporation.
Assuming the worst case, that you cannot prove your case in court, then there may be another option -- one which could be used to leverage the owners to either grant you ownership, or pay you a substantial amount of money. That option would be to sue for unpaid wages. As an executive of the corporation (i.e., an exempt employee), your salary must be at least $1,976.66 per month ($455 per week) under federal law -- otherwise, you are entitled to at least minimum wage
for your efforts.
Since your salary was only $1,500, you were a non-exempt hourly employee, and that means that you would be owed at least $10.88 per hour for every hour over 40 that you worked from day one until the date of your discharge. This could add up to quite a bit of change, especially as it would bring with it the additional penalties of failure to pay unemployment and workers compensation insurance
to the state, and FICA/FUTA to the IRS -- all of which could add up to create tens of thousands of dollars in both unpaid wages and fines, which would be set against your "employer's" incentive to make you an owner.
Now, here is the difficulty with all of this: you can't go to these people and tell them that unless they pay you $X or make you an owner, that you will report them to the Department of Labor
, IRS, and state tax authorities -- that would be criminal extortion
But, you can hire a lawyer and have him set a meeting, at which some of these possible outcomes can be mentioned, and the lawyer can calculate your likely damages, if you sue -- and maybe the certain knowledge that between you and the government, that your "employer" will be destroyed by the heavy hand of the law, unless it makes a suitable offer, just might get you a workable settlement.
If you simply stand your ground and sue for fraud, I believe that the risk of loss combined with the cost of suing may turn your case into a net loser. If I were representing you, I would recommend against trying to sue your way into an ownership position -- because there is just too much financial risk. Instead, I would try to leverage the failure to suitably pay you wages as a means for a financial settlement, and then you will just have to move on to your next project (and, you can file for unemployment insurance
benefits, too, since you were clearly filed without good cause).
Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.