MA marijuana firm to pay $300,000 for inadequately compensating workers

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A marijuana operator with three stores in Massachusetts agreed to pay nearly $300,000 in restitution and penalties after the state determined 282 employees were owed “premium pay” for work done on Sundays and holidays.

The Massachusetts attorney general’s office, which conducted the investigation, also issued a citation to Massachusetts-based Theory Wellness CEO Brandon Pollock and the company’s chief financial officer, Nicholas Friedman, for violating the state’s wage and hour laws.

The case shows the importance that marijuana operators know and abide by the nuances of a state’s hourly wage provisions.

Massachusetts labor law requires employees in certain retail businesses to be paid “premium pay” for working on Sundays and certain holidays.

In 2021, that rate was set at 1.2 times the regular hourly rate, according to a news release issued by the state AG’s office.

Theory Wellness, in a statement to Chicopee TV station WWLP, said it cooperated with the attorney general’s office and described the failure to pay premium rates as “inadvertent payroll errors.”

In a statement, the company implied those errors partly stemmed from the difficulty in hiring a traditional payroll service provider because marijuana is illegal federally.

“The complexities of a cannabis company are vast with a litany of traditional business-related resources, such as mainstream payroll providers that handle setting up pay rates, unwilling to provide services due to our classification federally,” Theory Wellness said in a statement provided to WWLP.

“This audit has been an opportunity to correct our policies and reaffirm our commitment to our team members, who make Theory what it is today.”

The state said the AG’s Fair Labor Division began an investigation in December 2020 after a worker filed a complaint about not getting premium pay.