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  • Failure to Pay Cannabis Workers Overtime for Donning and Doffing PPE: Emperor et al. v. Cresco Labs Inc. et al.

Sommers Schwartz attorneys Matthew Turner and Alana Karbal filed a class action lawsuit alleging that Cresco Labs failed to adequately compensate its employees for all hours worked. This matter follows another suit Matt brought against the cannabis production facility in 2021.

The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges that the defendant withheld wages and overtime pay in violation of state and federal employment laws, including the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Illinois Minimum Wage Law, and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act. Among the allegations, the suit claims the defendant regularly required its workers to:

  • Arrive early to undergo mandatory, uncompensated COVID-related health screenings, which regularly took between 10 and 30 minutes. 
  • Collect company-issued personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, hair nets, arm sleeves, gloves, scrubs, and protective shoes to wear on the premises before accessing the laboratory building (15-30 minutes).
  • Travel through the Cresco facility to the locker room areas (5-10 minutes)
  • Put on (“don”) the required PPE and store their personal possessions (10-30 minutes).

Workers had to perform all these tasks on site before they could travel another three to five minutes and punch in at the time clock. Once they finished their scheduled shift, they had to clock out before removing (“doffing”) their PPE, which was required before they could leave the premises. This took 15 to 20 more minutes of uncompensated time.

Further, workers were required to doff their PPE and then don new PPE before returning to work during designated, uncompensated 30-minute meal periods.

Cresco refused to compensate employees for time spent complying with these required measures, which often pushed their hours beyond 40 per week and entitled them to overtime pay. Employees who did not perform these actions outside their scheduled, compensated work periods were subject to discipline.

In a 2021 interview with Law360 (subscription required), Matt explained, “We expect cannabis companies to treat their employees fairly and comply with state and federal wage and hour laws like all other employers…. We intend to hold Cresco accountable for requiring their dedicated employees to work off the clock.” 

Cresco operates 13 production facilities and owns 69 dispensaries across 10 states.

As a result of arbitration agreements with class action waivers, the lawsuit was dismissed to arbitration. Matt and Alana have represented more than 118 employees in individual arbitrations against Cresco.

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