Bud’s Goods and Provisions, which operates dispensaries in Worcester, Watertown, and Abington, agreed to repay dozens of current and former employees as part of a $33,000 settlement with the Massachusetts Attorney General following allegations that the cannabis retail chain improperly kept tips from its budtenders.
“Our employer is taking our tips,” wrote Victoria-Lynne Rushton in a complaint submitted to the Attorney General last year. “They have us put the tips into a lock box, we do not see the money and we’re not told what was made each shift.”
The Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division cited Bud’s Goods & Provisions and its CEO Alex Mazin, individually, for violating the state’s law against improper tip deductions on May 3. Subsequently, the company agreed to a settlement of $33,262.17 that will be distributed among 68 employees who worked at some point between March 1, 2021 and the end of 2021.
The complaint was originally submitted anonymously by Rushton last summer. She has since provided Grown In with a copy of the complaint and agreed to be named as the filer.
“I mean, we were getting good money and we weren’t allowed to keep it,” she told Grown In in a telephone interview.
According to Lindsay Hoy and Rushton, who both previously worked in the company’s Abington location, Bud’s Goods & Provisions allowed budtenders to collect tips in a single, locked container that was kept behind the counter, rather than next to each register.
Only management had access to that box, and instead of distributing that cash directly, the company would use it to offer free food for employees on Tuesdays and Fridays.
“After a while, we realized the money coming in wasn’t equalling what we were given,” said Hoy. “The night crew who earned most of the tips and were left with cold soggy sandwiches or old pizza.”
In response to complaints that buying food did not benefit the evening employees who tended to draw the most tips, the company then began evenly distributing tips once a week to all employees, regardless of whether or not they worked directly with the public, according to Hoy.
“At the end of the week they would give us a total and divide it. They counted the money every night but no matter how many times I asked they would never give us a daily total which would have made it easier for us to see if they were stealing and being dishonest.”
Both former employees dismissed the settlement amount as insulting.
“I think the $33k settlement they ‘voluntarily’ came to is a slap in the face and a cowardly way of not apologizing,” said Hoy.
State law prohibits employers from taking any portion of tips or service charges given to wait, service, or bartender employees.
“Every employee in Massachusetts is entitled to workplace benefits and protections, which is why our office’s Fair Labor Division works actively to protect earned wages, hold employers accountable to our laws, and inform and educate businesses about their obligations,” said a spokesperson for the Attorney General. “We are committed to ensuring a level playing field for honest employers and a fair environment for workers.”
Bud’s Goods & Provisions CEO Alex Mazin declined to comment on the specific claims of his former employees, and the subsequent settlement with the attorney general’s office, but he did provide a general statement.
“We value our employees and compensate them above industry rates,” he said.