Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Mess Reader Unsure About Inviting Over Next-Door Neighbor

DEAR HARRIETTE: I referred my cousin to a company for work because she was out of a job and I knew she would do great work for them. She was hired, and she has done well. Her problem is that the employer doesn’t pay minimum wage, even though the job calls for a professional employee. She likes the work, but is barely scraping by. Whenever she approaches her boss about overtime or her salary, she gets the brush-off. Her boss says that she is being ungrateful and maybe she should leave. That sounds like a threat to me. I want to complain on her behalf, but I know she needs the work. How can I help her? -- Helping My Cousin, Syracuse, New York

DEAR HELPING MY COUSIN: Your cousin should think about her next job even as she considers lobbying for better wages at her current job. Standing up for yourself is part of the American way, yet it is often incredibly difficult. If your cousin can gather facts and figures to tell her boss why she deserves more pay, she can present that. Even better would be for her to find another job where she feels secure and respected.

It is the law that all employees, except those who make tips, are paid minimum wage, so long as the business earns more than $500,000 per year or if any transactions occur across state lines. For more information, go to

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)