The owners of three Lovely Buds cannabis dispensaries in Spokane, Wash., could end up owing their workers as much as $300,000 in alleged unpaid wages and overtime from the past three-plus years.
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) received a complaint in January 2019, and investigators found that the dispensaries’ parent corporation, Cannabis Green, had paid employees overtime only if they worked more than 40 hours at a single store, according to the L&I.
Unable to reach a settlement, L&I officials and the Washington State Office of the Attorney General (AGO) filed a wage-and-hour compliant May 11 in the Spokane County Superior Court, litigation that state officials said was the first of its kind against a cannabis retailer in the state.
The complaint names Cannabis Green and majority owners Elizabeth and Todd Byczek, with Lovely Buds, Lovely Buds North and Lovey Buds Division as the three dispensaries where the alleged claims are being investigated.
“Failing to pay workers the overtime pay and benefits they earned is wage theft—period,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in an L&I news release. “All businesses must follow the law. I’m proud to partner with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries to ensure workers’ wages are protected.”
The three named dispensaries opened in August 2014, February 2015 and June 2016, according to retail sales data from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board. Combined, the three stores reported more than $10.7 million in total sales in 2021. Since launching, the retail chain has recorded more than $64.8 million in sales overall through the end of 2021.
Following the 2019 complaint, L&I alleged that investigators found that employees worked more than 40 total hours at different Lovely Buds dispensaries without receiving overtime, and that sick leave was parceled out in much the same way.
Lovely Buds initially provided some pay records before attempting to halt the investigation through taking the state to court in Spokane, but L&I won that case, clearing the way to continue its investigation, according to the news release.
“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 the 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.”
Through the complaint process filed last week, L&I and AGO officials aim to determine how many of the company’s 75 to 100 employees are involved, and how much in wages and benefits they may be owed.