Wage theft comes in many forms and affects all industries.
On May 11, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) and the state Attorney General’s office filed a wage and hour lawsuit against Spokane-based cannabis retailer Lovely Buds for failing to pay workers the overtime and benefits they earned. The lawsuit is the first of its kind against a cannabis retailer in Washington and followed several attempts to reach a settlement with Lovely Buds’ owners Elizabeth and Todd Byczek and parent organization Cannabis Green.
Following an initial complaint in January 2019, L&I investigators found that the cannabis company paid workers overtime only if they accrued more than 40 hours at a single store. However, employees regularly split their working hours between different stores the company owned, barring them from collecting overtime pay regardless how many extra hours they worked. Sick leave benefits were paid out based on similar requirements.
Lovely Buds initially provided some pay records before attempting to halt the investigation by suing Washington state in a Spokane court. The judge in that case ruled against the cannabis retailer and allowed the investigation to continue. L&I and the Attorney General’s office are now trying to determine precisely how many of the company’s 75 to 100 workers have been affected by the wage theft scheme and how much in back wages and benefits they may be owed – L&I estimates the figure at as much as $300,000.
“Our goal in this case and any other wage and hour case is simple: Get these employees the wages and benefits they’ve earned,” L&I Director Joel Sacks said in a press release. “If these violations are ongoing, we’ll also work to change the way Cannabis Green does business so future workers don’t also become victims of wage theft.”
Lovely Buds’ three cannabis shops reported retail sales of more than $10.7 million total in 2021 to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.
Emery Reddy helps workers. Call us at if you have a wage violation, workers’ comp, injury, or other employment law claim. You won’t get better advice.