Business

Jungle Boys hit with labor lawsuit

By Alex Halperin
May 12, 2022
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Two former-employees have sued companies affiliated with SoCal operator Jungle Boys, alleging wrongful termination, unlawful retaliation, failure to pay all wages due and “false imprisonment” among other claims. The 45-page complaint also alleges that the defendants did not allow pregnant women employees.

High Times recently called Jungle Boys, which was established in 2006, a “storied” company and “one of the premier examples of urban farmers bootstrapping their way to success.”

In a statement, Arthur Hodge, a lawyer for the defendants, wrote that an initial investigation found the allegations to be inaccurate and that the defendants would contest the matter in court. 

  • The complaint alleges the defendants’ investigations were a “sham” and “constituted a purposeful avoidance of truth.”

After plaintiff Donna Rivadeneyra was hired as a trimmer in September 2020, she asked to work in the “jungle.” According to the complaint, she “was told that the name of the company was the “Jungle Boys” for a reason: that no women were allowed in the grow area.” Rivadeneyra said she’d like to be the first, but the defendants refused.

  • The complaint also references an ER visit by Rivadeneyra “related to a medical procedure that she undertook in order to not lose her job, as Defendants had warned her that she would be fired if she became pregnant.”
  • In his statement, defendants’ lawyer Hodge wrote that as a trimmer she did not has the skills to work in the grow room. He added that the company has had women growers but didn’t have the time on Wednesday to provide additional details.

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The complaint alleges that “there exists a unity of ownership and interest” between the four defendants and that “separate entities only exist in order to attempt to avoid compliance” with the state labor code and to avoid paying overtime.

  • The complaint alleges practices such as paychecks rounded to the dollar and having a supervisor responsible for tracking her hours — instead of clocking in and out herself — led Rivadeneyra to believe “she was the victim of wage theft.”
  • The defendants are Toluca Lake Collective, Los Angeles Farmers (which shares an address with Jungle Boys’ downtown LA dispensary), Elise Management and Hezekiah Incorporated.

According to the complaint, Rivadeneyra was fired In July 2021 after a supervisor saw several employees drinking beer in their vehicles on lunch break. Though they say they had not been drinking, the plaintiffs were the only employees suspended and sent home. The plaintiffs allege the incident was used as a pretext to fire Rivadeneyra in retaliation for complaining about other practices at the companies.

To support his point, the defendants’ attorney provided a photo of a beer bottle at the feet of Rivadeneyra (in the striped tights) and another employee.

  • After her suspension, Rivadeneyra came in to speak with an HR manager to explain that she hadn’t been drinking and learned she was fired. When she refused to sign documents provided to her it, it alleges security personnel and another HR manager arrived and “falsely imprisoned” her. “She felt trapped and used physical force to be released from her false imprisonment.”

Justin Santarosa, an LA-based partner at law firm Duane Morris, who is not involved in the suit, said the case reflects that as the industry matures more cannabis companies are facing litigation around general operating issues. The current tight labor market “invites lawsuits like this as well.”

  • He advises clients to ensure they’re following all relevant laws. Amid very challenging market conditions “defending lawsuits doesn’t help the bottom line at all”

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