Maryland medical marijuana firm pays $175K to settle sexual harassment suit

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A medical marijuana dispensary in Maryland and its parent company will pay $175,000 to settle a sexual harassment suit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The settlement was approved Monday by a federal judge.

According to Law360, the settlement requires Maryland Health Management, which does business as Nature’s Medicines, and its parent, Arizona-based AMMA Investment Group, to pay $45,000 to dispensary clerk Russel Hicks, who first raised the complaints with the EEOC, and the remaining $130,000 to five other claimants named in the suit.

The EEOC filed the lawsuit in September after first attempting to reach a prelitigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process, according to the agency.

Nature’s Medicines and AMMA Investment Group also must train employees on federal anti-discrimination laws, with an emphasis on preventing sex-based harassment, and implement and disseminate an anti-discrimination policy, the EEOC said.

The companies also must report to the EEOC on how they handle any future complaints of sex-based discrimination and post a notice in their workplace about the settlement.

The original EEOC suit alleged that a general manager at Nature’s Medicines facility in Ellicott City, Maryland:

  • Engaged in “unwelcome touching.”
  • Made “highly offensive sexual comments to and about staff and customers.”
  • “Showed an employee a nude picture on his phone.”

The manager also told employees that because he was well-connected in the cannabis industry, he could prevent them from getting other industry jobs if they complained.

Although employees complained for months about the harassment, Nature’s Medicine, which operates dispensaries in six states, didn’t investigate until after it learned a complaint had been filed with the EEOC.

“All employers, in­cluding those in newer and emerging industries, must be vigilant about their responsibility to protect their employees from harassment,” said Jamie Williamson, director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District office.