Spokane cannabis business could owe employees $300,000 in unpaid wages
TUMWATER – Three Lovely Buds cannabis shops in Spokane could owe employees as much as $300,000 in unpaid wages and overtime from the past three years.
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) and the Washington State Office of the Attorney General (AGO) will file a wage and hour complaint May 11 in Spokane County Superior Court, the first litigation of this type against a cannabis retailer in Washington.
The complaint names Lovely Buds, Lovely Buds North, and Lovely Buds Division, along with the parent corporation Cannabis Green and majority owners Elizabeth and Todd Byczek.
“Failing to pay workers the overtime pay and benefits they earned is wage theft — period,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “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.”
About the case
L&I received a complaint in January 2019, and investigators found that the company paid employees overtime only if they worked more than 40 hours at a single store. In many cases, employees worked more than 40 total hours at different stores the company owned without receiving overtime. Sick leave was parceled out in much the same way.
L&I and AGO attempted several times to reach a settlement with the owners. “Our goal in this case and any other wage and hour case is simple: Get these employees the wages and benefits they’ve earned,” said Joel Sacks, L&I Director. “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 initially provided some pay records before taking the state to court in Spokane in an attempt to halt the investigation. The state won that case, clearing the way for the investigation to continue. Through the complaint process, L&I and AGO will determine exactly how many of the 75-100 company employees are involved and how much in wages and benefits they may be owed.
The Lovely Buds website says they opened in 2016. The company’s three stores reported retail sales of more than $10.7 million total in 2021 to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.
L&I oversees the state’s wage-and-hour laws. The agency investigates all wage-payment complaints. More information on wages or filing a complaint is available on L&I's wage and hour webpage. Employers and workers may also call 360-902-5316 or 1-866-219-7321.
Matthew Erlich, Public Affairs, 360-902-6508.