Free Enterprise - The FindLaw Small Business Law Blog

Son Sues Mom, Pop for Overtime at Family Biz

You can choose your employees, but you can't choose your family members.

This has been a hard lesson for a New York City mom-and-pop ice cream shop owner. You see, the actual mother and father are being sued for overtime by their son after the son claims to have worked 80 hours a week without a penny of overtime.

In a strange set of facts, the mom and dad say that their son is only suing them as an intimidation attempt after they fired him for starting a directly competitive business.

Salvatore and Patricia Piazza say that their son Nicholas bought his own ice cream truck and tried to compete directly against them by stealing their customers, reports the New York Post. So the parents fired their son and sued him earlier this year.

Nicholas Piazza denies trying to compete against his parents and says that he was fired for complaining about working long hours and not being paid overtime. In his own lawsuit, Nicholas Piazza is suing his parents for overtime.

Despite the allegations and disputed facts in this family drama, Nicolas Piazza's lawsuit does raise an interesting question: Whether a family-owned shop has to pay family members overtime or even minimum wage

Generally, you would not have to pay yourself overtime pay and many small business owners even suffer a loss for their hours worked. But whether you can employ your spouse, children, or other family members for low or no pay, is a question best answered by an employment attorney.

Mom and dad Piazza have claimed that Nicholas was an executive at the company. If so, they may be setting up the defense that Nicholas falls under the executive exemption from overtime pay. Granted, the fact that Nicholas was only earning $10 an hour strongly hurts this argument.

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