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  1. #1

    Default Ex-Wife/Boss: Tolerate/Stay or Go

    My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: New Jersey

    Background: We are getting divorced. Our business, while completely under her name, was founded during our marriage and had a lot of my mother's money invested to start it. Thus, it is a marital asset regardless of whose name is on it and will be subject to equitable distribution in the divorce matter. In order to maintain status quo, we have been advised that I should not quit nor should she fire me until the divorce is finalized. As a family business, I do not have any contracts signed governing the terms of my employment.

    The harassment is a result of our contentious divorce. I can best describe her behavior as a bully who is retaliating against her victim because the victim stood up to her. She unilaterally generated a job description for my position to include running personal errands for her as I refused to do so any longer outside of the workplace. She has one-by-one cut off access to various important business accounts impeding my ability to perform my job, but is blatantly doing so to hide her unsavory activities and how much business money is spent on her affair or her personal life. She has now offered an ultimatum that I concede to her new terms of my position or give her 14-day notice within two weeks from now.

    1. Would she have grounds to terminate me if I simply chose to ignore her official notice?
    2. Would I have a case for wrongful termination?
    3. Can I just quit immediately without notice? What retaliation could I expect from that?

    My divorce lawyers do not often enough come across this type of incredibly one-sided, imbalance of power in a divorce this contentious so they are not sure what to advise from a labor law standpoint.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Ex-Wife/Boss: Tolerate/Stay or Go

    In order to maintain status quo, we have been advised that I should not quit nor should she fire me until the divorce is finalized.
    Let's start with that. What do you mean by "advised"?

    A divorce petition often includes a "preliminary injunction."

    Read about it at:

    https://definitions.uslegal.com/p/pr...ry-injunction/

    Scroll down to the divorce paragraphs.

    Now go back and read your divorce papers and see if it has one. If it does, it's a court order and you can haul your wife into court to enforce it since she is changing the status quo.

    If there isn't one, talk to your lawyer about getting her into court and getting an injunction prohibiting her behavior.

    Meantime, don't quit until:

    A - You have another job lined up.

    and

    B - You have squirrelled away any and all business records in a place of safe-keeping that she wouldn't know about. NJ is a one party consent state for the recording of conversations. As long as you are a party to a conversation you may legally record it. Might be a good idea to start secretly recording any conversations with your wife or anybody else you talk to. Just make sure you don't get caught. I suggest getting a digital recorder with a long range that you can hide in your pocket instead of trying to use your phone.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Ex-Wife/Boss: Tolerate/Stay or Go

    Quote Quoting AsAmDivorce20
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    My question involves labor and employment law for the state of: New Jersey

    Background: We are getting divorced. Our business, while completely under her name, was founded during our marriage and had a lot of my mother's money invested to start it. Thus, it is a marital asset regardless of whose name is on it and will be subject to equitable distribution in the divorce matter. In order to maintain status quo, we have been advised that I should not quit nor should she fire me until the divorce is finalized. As a family business, I do not have any contracts signed governing the terms of my employment..
    What type of business entity is this?

    Quote Quoting AsAmDivorce20
    View Post
    The harassment is a result of our contentious divorce. I can best describe her behavior as a bully who is retaliating against her victim because the victim stood up to her. She unilaterally generated a job description for my position to include running personal errands for her as I refused to do so any longer outside of the workplace. She has one-by-one cut off access to various important business accounts impeding my ability to perform my job, but is blatantly doing so to hide her unsavory activities and how much business money is spent on her affair or her personal life. She has now offered an ultimatum that I concede to her new terms of my position or give her 14-day notice within two weeks from now.

    1. Would she have grounds to terminate me if I simply chose to ignore her official notice?
    2. Would I have a case for wrongful termination?
    3. Can I just quit immediately without notice? What retaliation could I expect from that?

    My divorce lawyers do not often enough come across this type of incredibly one-sided, imbalance of power in a divorce this contentious so they are not sure what to advise from a labor law standpoint.
    The business was founded while you were married. You are correct that in NJ that is subject to equitable distribution. Meaning you own at least half the company in a divorce proceeding and perhaps more since you say your mother provided the seed money. So why do you act like you are working for some unrelated corporation as an employee?

    You are an employee on the books for tax purposes. There is no wrongful termination.

    But without knowing the magnitude of the business, the structure of the business, how you are paid, and a litany of other information, we can't tell you how to deal with this.

    Is she paying your taxes as an employer (social security tax, withholding tax)? Is she paying for your workman's compensation insurance? Do you get a W-2 or 1099 from the company each year?

    This is like trying to determine who's ball we are playing soccer with.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Ex-Wife/Boss: Tolerate/Stay or Go

    Thank you for the response, adjusterjack. In order to maintain consistency for alimony calculations and to not create new and unusual burdens until the divorce was finalized, both my lawyer and our mediator suggested that the employment situation remain as is until issues are resolved suggesting that quitting prematurely on my part could be interpreted as an attempt to intentionally skew alimony decisions in my favor. On that same note, if she were to fire me without cause, she would be forcing me into a financial burden not of my creation and thus be guaranteed to have to pay me alimony. Therefore, during this time, she has been unilaterally declaring new policies to artificially create cause to fire me or to compel me to quit first to gain a financial edge in the divorce case. I understand that this is unique as an employment law inquiry as normally at-will employment means she can fire me without cause and I can also quit without notice, and we're only bound together because of the divorce proceedings. Are there any labor laws that cover this kind of harassment and workplace/divorce situation?

    We do not have an effective preliminary injunction at this time as the divorce complaint has not yet been filed with the courts as an incentive for mediation. If mediation was successful, then we would file under irreconcilable differences instead of adultery of which I have more than sufficient proof that she is not aware of. But it appears my act of good faith was exploited by this manipulative person so these may be the next steps.

    Further background, my wife and I are the only employees of this business at this time. I have in preparation already squirreled away as much as I can, but as of last night, she has cut off my remaining access to business financials so there's less incentive to stay.

    In an incident last week where she had an emotional breakdown at the office involving loud, violent bangs from her internal office forcing closure to customers for the later half of the day, she quickly tried to scapegoat me for it saying I caused her emotional distress, and she was in fear of me because I was the one creating the loud bangs. Evidence already collected will prove at least that I am not the one being violent at the office, but my concern now includes her demonstrated likelihood in falsifying an event to frame me for it, falsely justifying my termination, and then extending such a lie to affect custody and financial settlements in the divorce proceedings. Our continued co-occupancy of the work space will continue to give her that opportunity so I also feel it's wise to un-tether ASAP.

    Also I failed to mention earlier, as part of her newly declared terms of my continued employment, I would be accepting a 20% pay cut if I stayed on the job. Under the guise of change of business needs (email threads will refute that) her manipulations of policies and my salary feel like harassment stemming from divorce issues rather than workplace issues. Do I have a case, knowing that this would otherwise be an at-will employment situation but isn't because of the divorce issue?

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Ex-Wife/Boss: Tolerate/Stay or Go

    If you want a divorce in NJ you can simply ask for it under irreconcilable differences. There is no need to prove infidelity or anything else. You don't want to be married anymore, the court doesn't care what the problem is.

    Sounds like you run a mom and pop shop of some sort.

    Quote Quoting AsAmDivorce20
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    Further background, my wife and I are the only employees of this business at this time. I have in preparation already squirreled away as much as I can, but as of last night, she has cut off my remaining access to business financials so there's less incentive to stay.
    If you are an employee, how would you have access to bank accounts?

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Ex-Wife/Boss: Tolerate/Stay or Go

    Without seeing the documentation regarding the business and the divorce I'm not prepared to give definitive answers as I don't know what limits might be set within them. However, I'm going to give you a few definitions:

    A wrongful termination means that there is a specific law that prohibits the employer from firing you for the reason he did. A contract can limit an employer's right to terminate but that would be a contract breach and not a wrongful term.

    Employment in 49 out of 50 states, including New Jersey, is at-will, meaning that you can quit at any time and for any reason and you can be fired for any reason not prohibited by law or contract.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Ex-Wife/Boss: Tolerate/Stay or Go

    In an incident last week where she had an emotional breakdown at the office involving loud, violent bangs from her internal office forcing closure to customers for the later half of the day, she quickly tried to scapegoat me for it saying I caused her emotional distress, and she was in fear of me because I was the one creating the loud bangs. Evidence already collected will prove at least that I am not the one being violent at the office, but my concern now includes her demonstrated likelihood in falsifying an event to frame me for it, falsely justifying my termination, and then extending such a lie to affect custody and financial settlements in the divorce proceedings. Our continued co-occupancy of the work space will continue to give her that opportunity so I also feel it's wise to un-tether ASAP.
    Seems to me that she is setting you up for a restraining order which will effective get you out of the business (and out of the house) without firing you and without you quitting.

    Unfortunately, whatever evidence you have to the contrary, there is still a double standard in this country and women can easily get a judge to issue a restraining order without having to prove anything.

    I suggest you get in front of this and get your divorce petition filed, making sure that there is a preliminary injunction prohibiting her behavior and restoring the status quo. If you don't go on the offensive this lunatic will walk all over you.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Ex-Wife/Boss: Tolerate/Stay or Go

    Quote Quoting budwad
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    What type of business entity is this?
    This is a medical practice. She is the practitioner and signs the checks, and I do the billing, reception, scheduling, tech support, medical insurance, appeals, credentialing, etc. It was a build-to-suit office so I basically built/mounted/installed 90% of the furniture and equipment with my own two hands. Only us two employees at this time.



    Quote Quoting budwad
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    The business was founded while you were married. You are correct that in NJ that is subject to equitable distribution. Meaning you own at least half the company in a divorce proceeding and perhaps more since you say your mother provided the seed money. So why do you act like you are working for some unrelated corporation as an employee?

    You are an employee on the books for tax purposes. There is no wrongful termination.
    As I tried to assert myself more as part owner and pointing out her actions are not to the benefit of the business, she would press on the second point that I am just an employee and should just do what she says. Your point still stands that I am an employee on the books so she can terminate me at-will. Does that also mean I can quit at-will since we have no contract dictating prior notice without repercussion? Obviously I am not expecting a proper job reference from my evil ex-wife so courtesy is not an issue here.

    Quote Quoting budwad
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    But without knowing the magnitude of the business, the structure of the business, how you are paid, and a litany of other information, we can't tell you how to deal with this.
    I'm glad you brought this up. She basically unilaterally dictates our salary. While we were married, our pay was equal but low as the business was just starting out two years ago. Then I found out she was having an affair last year. She denied it and continues to deny it as my lawyer as advised me not to reveal evidence to her prematurely. When it got too tense in the house, she moved out using her new financial needs as an excuse to triple her salary. Although she initially intended to keep my salary at the low rate, she realized the poor optics and gave me a smaller raise at the same time. Now she is earning a little above NJ average for her position and I am earning a little below NJ average for mine. This most current and urgent issue inspiring my post involves me accepting a 20% pay cut or face having my old position phased out from the company

    Quote Quoting budwad
    View Post
    Is she paying your taxes as an employer (social security tax, withholding tax)? Is she paying for your workman's compensation insurance? Do you get a W-2 or 1099 from the company each year?

    This is like trying to determine who's ball we are playing soccer with.
    Yes she is withholding taxes from our paychecks and paying worker's comp insurance. We get W-2s every year. I apologize for withholding information. As she insists on representing herself in legal matters, she is likely to peruse forums such as these for legal advice and may become privy to my legal strategies in our dispute if I get too specific. Please let me know what further details may help. If it's anything too sensitive in nature, I will find a way to send a private message.

    I'm really glad you guys are online at this time. It helps to have someone to talk to. I am so anxious about this right now, you are helping me tremendously.

    Quote Quoting budwad
    View Post
    If you want a divorce in NJ you can simply ask for it under irreconcilable differences. There is no need to prove infidelity or anything else. You don't want to be married anymore, the court doesn't care what the problem is.

    Sounds like you run a mom and pop shop of some sort.

    If you are an employee, how would you have access to bank accounts?
    I heard, and I could be wrong about this, adultery cases get heard a little sooner than others unless there's a settlement agreement in place. An adultery case then gets that homewrecker legally involved and all evidence becomes a matter of public record. He would not like to get dragged out into the light and if you've seen her social media, her pristine reputation is important to her. As a no-fault state, I recognize proving adultery won't affect equitable distribution, but I was offering to save them some embarrassment. If they perjure themselves and lose their medical licenses as a result, that's great, but none of my business.

    As a married couple building our family business together, there was no reservations about sharing access to the business account. In a sense, it was sharing the responsibilities so we would both monitor and manage the income flow. From a practical standpoint, I need to be able to deposit checks received and then update the bookkeeping. She has now cut off access to both the bank and the bookkeeping files so now I cannot do that part of my job. Most likely this is in retaliation for revealing in mediation the growth of the business thus making it a high-value asset for equitable distribution. Now that she has sole control of the data, she can modify and falsify that data to reduce the apparent business growth thereby reducing what I am owed from it. She will not involve a forensic accountant unless I pay for the costs alone. It is both our intents that she gets what's left of the business after the divorce.

    Quote Quoting adjusterjack
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    Seems to me that she is setting you up for a restraining order which will effective get you out of the business (and out of the house) without firing you and without you quitting.

    Unfortunately, whatever evidence you have to the contrary, there is still a double standard in this country and women can easily get a judge to issue a restraining order without having to prove anything.

    I suggest you get in front of this and get your divorce petition filed, making sure that there is a preliminary injunction prohibiting her behavior and restoring the status quo. If you don't go on the offensive this lunatic will walk all over you.
    Fully agreed. Should I quit right now then?

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Ex-Wife/Boss: Tolerate/Stay or Go

    So...are you the OP who also posted something similar as the departing CEO in a similar medical practice?

    You are in a bind as far as ownership goes. You cannot own or be a shareholder in a medical practice as you do not hold a medical license. She can sell the business and there isn't anything you can do about it as you are an employee.

    Divorces are stressful. I'm sure that you infuriate her and I'm sure that you are both dealing with one another dishonestly.

    Since you both live and work together there is no break. Now your incomes are inextricably bound up together and you each threaten each others livelihood. All in all, this seems to have been an extraordinarily bad plan.

    As noted above, your wife can simply fire you and it will not be wrongful termination. She can also alter your salary, since you are the employee and she is the owner, absent any contract. If I were her I would have done so immediately upon the collapse of your marriage.

    If you're worried about the company being undervalued, for the purposes of divorce, the you are the one who will have to spend the money to show otherwise.

    I haven't seen anyone ask what structure the business is. Is this a corporation, an LLC, or what?

    Finally, I would remind others here that we are presented with well colored, one-sided accounts. I suspect that there is far more to this story than we are being told.
    "Where do those stairs go?"
    "They go up!"

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Ex-Wife/Boss: Tolerate/Stay or Go

    Quote Quoting AsAmDivorce20
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    Should I quit right now then?
    Find another job first. If you quit you won't be eligible for unemployment compensation. This may be stressful but I don't see it rising to the level of "hostile work environment" that would allow you benefits.

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