I currently work for a marijuana dispensary. We get paid under the table, but when I started about 1 year ago I was asked to send a copy of my ID and my SS # because they claimed we would soon be on payroll. Fast forward to a year later, they are currently violating almost all labor laws. People will work 12 hours with no break and 50+ hours without overtime. They also constantly threaten to take tips from us when ever they want. I am tired of dealing with their abuse and I want to take a stand for myself.
Although I know they are breaking laws I am wondering what I could face for reporting them since I am currently getting paid under the table. What are the risks and drawbacks and what is my best avenue for getting away from this place?
So, you could technically run into some problems with the IRS and the Franchise Tax Board regarding how you were paid if you didn't report your wages as income. Since I'm not a tax attorney, I can't really tell you one way or the other. That said, one of the forms of damages you would seek if you sued your employer would be their portion of your payroll taxes.
Now, there is a little bit of weirdness involved because, as you know, marijuana is legal in California, but is illegal under federal law. As a result, your employer can't use the federal banking system. So, when you sue your employer, it'll be weird for your attorney. But that's hardly your concern at this point. Go and hire an attorney who can assist you. Find one on this site, or go to the website of the California Employment Lawyers' Association, www.cela.org, and use the "find a lawyer" function.
While I am an attorney with over fifteen years of experience, until we sign a retainer agreement, I am not YOUR attorney. My postings are meant for informational purposes only, and DO NOT constitute legal advice, nor do they create an attorney-client relationship between us. As such, the question, my answer, and any comments left to my answer, are not protected by attorney-client privilege. Also, keep in mind that all legal claims have relevant statute of limitations, some of which can be very short. So, if you believe you need to hire an attorney, and need legal advice, seek out legal representation as soon as possible.
Cannabis businesses have agreed to follow all applicable California Labor law as part of their licensing process. Yet, many fail to have any HR functions. They frequently fail to provide paystubs, rest breaks, meal breaks, pay overtime, pay the employer portion of taxes, etc.. They also cannot take your tips, though a legitimate tip pooling arrangement is allowed. I have obtained substantial settlements for multiple mistreated Cannabis business employees.
Although it is illegal retaliation for an employer to take an adverse action against you based on you complaining in good faith about their failure to follow California labor law, it sometimes happens. Thus, if you need your job for your financial survival, you may want to find another job before having an attorney send them a demand letter.
Hopefully, you are reporting your income and paying your taxes. You will likely have to pay taxes on any monies you recover.
Finally, you should kept records of your hours worked, your breaks, etc. for when you are ready to take legal action.
Most employment attorneys provide free consultations. You should take them up on it.
Do you know an employee who quit or was fired? A wage and hour class action could be filed against them, with former employees as the witnesses. This would make it less likely that the employees who are currently working would be fired. Contact a good wage and hour attorney.
This answer is a general interpretation of the law and is not fact specific to your case. Likewise it does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should seek an attorney for a review of your specific facts and documents.
The risk is you will never work in cannabis again. More likely, you'll be fine. This would need a lot of evidence and corroboration. You don't just bring the case hoping to get lucky.
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