Toluca Lake Collective, a licensed recreational dispensary and cultivation facility that releases products under the brand Jungle Boys, was sued by former employees for retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination, failure to pay wages, and overtime due, as well as other alleged federal and state labor violations.
A lawsuit accuses the company of ‘boys-only’ grow room culture
Jungle Boys claims they terminated the employees for consumption of alcohol during working hours, which they say is due cause. The 45-page complaint, submitted by attorneys at Romero Law representing plaintiffs Donna Rivadeneyra and Mario De La Cruz, lists 17 complaints for damages, and demand for a "speedy jury trial." Los Angeles Farmers. Inc., Elise Management, and Hezekiah Incorporated are also listed as defendants in the complaint.
Claims of discrimination and poor working conditions
According to the complaint obtained by WeedWeek, Rivadeneyra, who was a trimmer for Jungle Boys at Toluca Lake Collective, alleges the defendants discriminated against her and actively avoided compliance with the California Labor Code. The plaintiffs' counsel alleged that Rivadeneyra was told that women were not allowed in the grow area, explicitly being told that was the reason the company "was called Jungle Boys."
Despite a reasonable belief that she had the requisite skills for the job, Rivadeneyra alleges she was denied more than one request to work in the "jungle." She also says she was told she'd be fired if she became pregnant. Additionally, the plaintiffs allege wage theft, wrongful discharge, unpaid overtime, failure to provide meal and rest periods, unpaid mileage while the plaintiffs were on the clock, and failure to provide employment records on demand.
The complaint was initially filed at the end of April, and picked up plenty of attention in the cannabis world in the last couple of weeks as a Reddit thread took off, and people started posting about it on social media.
The complaint also alleged that the defendants engaged in unlawful retaliation against Rivadeneyra, claiming she was terminated from her position for reporting a work-related injury, a right afforded to her by the federal Occupational Health and Safety Act. The US department of labor specifically encourages workers to report unsafe workplace events and instances, and even provides official avenues for filing whistleblower reports.
The complaint also alleges that supervisors clocked employees in and out, rather than employees doing it themselves, which the plaintiffs say is when wage theft occurred. They say that the Jungle Boys engaged in a sham investigation when Rivadeneyra reported issues to her superiors.
How the Jungle Boys responded
Arthur Hodge, counsel for the defendants, responded with a statement. "[T]he businesses named in the lawsuit employ workers of any gender identification in accordance with their experience and the position they seek. There are women employed in all aspects of these businesses from entry-level to upper-level management," said Hodge. The document from Toluca Lake Collective's counsel contained a photo of the defendants sitting on the tailgate of a white sedan with three glass bottles on the ground next to them: two Jarritos soda bottles and a Stella Artois beer. Hodge alleged in the release that the plaintiffs were terminated for "consuming alcohol outside the business during a rest break." However, the photo doesn't have a timestamp and doesn't corroborate the plaintiffs' complaint in which they allege the only rest break they got was a one-hour lunch break. It's not clear whether the photo was taken before or after alleged retaliation in which Rivadeneyra's hours were reduced to working five days out of the week instead of six.
"This case is demonstrative of a very awful trend in the marijuana industry where women are objectified and not allowed into management or key positions," Romero said to reporters at Law360. "Unfortunately, this is an employer who has little respect for its employees, especially those who are female." Romero also encouraged other victims of wrongful workplace retaliation to come forward by getting Right to Sue letters from FEHA within three years of their wrongful termination.
Toluca Lake Collective was raided by LAPD back in March of 2020 for non-payment of a fine of $66,000; the LAPD seized more than $174,000 in cash. TLC is the main cultivation facility for Jungle Boys' flower brands, vape carts, and extracts, estimated to have more than a thousand grow lights throughout the facility.