Overtime-pay issue leads CO marijuana security firm to US Supreme Court

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A cannabis security company based in Colorado has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower-court decision requiring state-legal marijuana businesses to adhere to federal labor laws such as overtime pay.

In its petition, Helix TCS argues that a ruling last September by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver should be overturned because federal labor laws shouldn’t apply to workers engaged in illegal conduct – behavior that violates the federal Controlled Substances Act.

The closely watched case could have broad implications on how state-legal marijuana businesses compensate employees.

The 10th Circuit ruled that a lower court “correctly reasoned and case law has repeatedly confirmed that employers are not excused from complying with federal laws just because their business practices are federally prohibited.”

Helix countered that the 10th Circuit decision merely “deepens the confusion, conflict and lack of uniformity between state and federal law” regarding workers participating in the marijuana industry.

“In the absence of congressional action, which is not anticipated any time soon, this Court should rule that an individual perpetrating a federal drug crime is not entitled to federally mandated compensation for their efforts,” Helix wrote in its request for a Supreme Court review of the case.

Robert Kenney alleged in a suit that he and fellow Helix security guards regularly worked more than 40 hours a week for a 14-month span in 2016 and 2017 without receiving paid overtime in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).