ASK AMY: Spa worker knows unethical owner is all wet

A spa worker realizes their employer isn't paying staff their fair wages.
A spa worker realizes their employer isn’t paying staff their fair wages. Photo by file photo /Getty Images

Dear Amy: I work for a small spa. Over the last eight years my family and the owners’ family have become friends.

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We have young children who play together.

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The business owner recently confided that he and his wife have been breaking the law by not paying employees an hourly minimum wage, in addition to time booked with clients.

This has been happening for several years, and I am legally owed $9,000 to $10,000 of back pay.

Although the owners made everything legit, they have made no mention of paying me this owed money.

The other employees are not aware that they are also owed money.

I spoke with a lawyer and although by law the money is owed to me, I will have to take the business to court – or try to settle.

I am so torn. I feel betrayed by my boss/friend but sort of obligated to tell my coworkers. They are owed money, too.

I’m not sure I can even remain friends or work for this company anymore.

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I have caught them lying to other employees.

Should I ask my bosses/friends for the cash?

Should I inform the other employees?

– Rubs Me Wrong!

Dear Wrong: You should pursue the back pay owed to you, following your lawyer’s advice (a letter from the lawyer might inspire the business owners to avoid court and offer you a fair settlement).

You should assume that your friendship is over and proactively look for a position at a different business, in case you decide to part company.

In terms of notifying the other employees, the letter from your lawyer to the spa owners might include a sentence strongly suggesting that they take steps to restore back pay to all of their employees. Your lawyer might decide to contact the other employees independently, gathering a few more clients and billable hours along the way.

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The business owners should assume that all of the employees will find out about this. The spa’s own lawyer will advise them on how to settle, deal with any penalties, and continue to stay in business, legitimately.


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Dear Amy: Fifty-two years ago, my sister shared a secret with me on the condition that I tell no one.

She has five children, two with her first husband and three children with three different men (conceived while she was still married to her first husband).

I’m experiencing guilt about holding this secret and feel my adult nieces and nephews have a basic right to know their truth.

Her fear of being disowned by her children once they know the truth keeps her quiet. Plus, she sees no reason to upset so many families.

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Is it her secret to keep from her five adult children?

The letters I read in your column make it clear that eventually, with the prevalence of DNA testing, it’s only a matter of time until this is revealed.

Is it my secret to tell?

Your thoughts?

– Not my Secret?

Dear Not: Knowing a secret doesn’t make it “yours.” So this secret is not yours to share.

Yes, your sister’s adult children do have the right to know their DNA heritage. Your sister is the person who should tell them.

She can either tell them herself and have a hope of controlling the narrative, or she can wait until the inevitable DNA search reveals the truth.

Keep in mind that if ANY of the three affected siblings (or their children) register on a DNA site, they could become connected with other DNA relatives out there (unknown half-siblings or their children, for instance) and could start the process of unraveling this very tangled web.

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You might be helpful to your sister if you offer to talk this through with her and assure her that you will offer her continued emotional support.

Dear Amy: “To Tell or Not” wondered whether to tell her future husband about her previous sexual abuse history.

I did not work through my abuse history until after the death of my abuser, several years into my marriage and after the birth of my child.

I finally got the nerve to tell my husband by writing a letter outlining what had happened. His response? “I always knew there was something wrong with you.”

I was stunned. He never said anything supportive.

That was the beginning of the end of our marriage.

Had I known he would have thought I was “defective,” I probably would have never married him.

– Learned too Late

Dear Learned: I’m so sorry. Thank you for offering your perspective.