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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane cannabis retailer could owe as much as $300,000 in unpaid wages and overtime to employees

OLYMPIA – Lovely Buds cannabis shops in Spokane could owe employees $300,000 in unpaid wages and overtime from the past three years.

The corporation Cannabis Green, which owns three Lovely Buds locations in Spokane, and its owners Elizabeth and Todd Byczek, are facing a wage and hour complaint filed by the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries and the state’s Office of the Attorney General. It’s the first litigation of this type against a cannabis retailer in Washington.

In a complaint filed Wednesday in Spokane County Superior Court, the department alleges Lovely Buds did not properly compensate their workers for overtime.

“Failing to pay workers the overtime pay and benefits they earned is wage theft – period,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement. “All businesses must follow the law.”

The Department of Labor & Industries received a complaint in January 2019 against the company and found that it only paid employees overtime if they worked more than 40 hours at a single store. In many cases, however, employees worked more than 40 total hours at different stores owned by the same company without receiving overtime.

Similarly, the complaint also claims Lovely Buds did not allow employers to use the cumulative hours worked at all three stores to accrue sick leave. Employees are required to accrue at least one hour of paid sick leave for every forty hours worked.

“The paystubs did not show any indication that the workers’ accrued sick leave was equal to the total of all three sick leave balances,” according to the complaint. “Instead, it appeared that workers had three separate sick leave balances: one for each specific location.”

Through this complaint process, the state says it will be able to determine exactly how many of the 75 to 100 company employees are involved and how much wages and benefits they are owed. According to the complaint, the department believes at least 70 current and former employees were underpaid.

“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. “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 did not respond to request for comment by press time.

The complaint says the company failed to keep accurate records, including records of all hours worked each day and each workweek. The company also allowed employees to work “off-the-clock.”

In the complaint, the department claims Lovely Buds employees were required to wait between five and 20 minutes for all of the store’s alarm systems to be engaged or disengaged. Employees were not paid during those hours.

On multiple occasions, employees were not allowed to take all of their breaks due to increased customer service, according to the complaint. The company would automatically deduct 30 minutes from employees’ hours each day, whether they had a meal period or not.

“Defendants failed to pay at least the applicable minimum wage for all hours worked by affected employees,” according to the complaint.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.