The parent company of premium cannabis dispensary Serra is getting hit with a $550,000 lawsuit alleging wrongful termination and retaliation for whistleblowing, among other complaints.
Serra is a high-end dispensary with two-locations in Portland and one in Eugene. WW has called them the "pot shop equivalent of Anthropologie"—a minimalist shop with "gold details on the light fixtures" and "origami-wrapped chopsticks for measuring buds." Serra's shops focus on premium products, and are the maker of a popular line of edibles using Woodblock Chocolate.
In a lawsuit filed November 14 in Multnomah County Circuit Court, Tara Williams and Kristen McWain say they were unlawfully fired by Serra parent company Groundworks Services Incorporated after reporting their supervisor for packaging untracked cannabis for sale, which they believed to be a violation of OLCC regulations.
Representatives of Groundworks and of Williams and McWain both declined to comment on the pending litigation.
In the lawsuit, Williams and McWain allege they discovered evidence that Groundworks employees had sprinkled a number of already tested and packaged harvest lots with bits from a kilogram of "jar shake" cannabis that had never been tracked by the state, as required by OLCC regulations. They allege that the weights of some harvest lots were then updated to reflect the weight of the shake that had not been in the state tracking system, with the new weights "written in by hand."
By OLCC regulations, all cannabis sold in Oregon must be tracked by a cannabis tracking computer system called Metrc. In addition, cannabis that has already been tested and packaged can't be mixed with cannabis from other harvest lots.
The suit alleges that when Williams discovered an untracked kilo of jar shake—unaccounted for during the company's transition from medical to recreational cannabis in early 2017—Williams made her concerns immediately clear to her manager.
"On or around February 9, 2017," according to the suit, "Plaintiffs learned that [the manager] and Groundworks planned to mix the unaccounted for jar shake into bags of marijuana from different harvest lots that had already been tested, packaged and accounted for in Metrc. Plaintiffs told [the manager] they believed the plan would violate OLCC regulations… [The manager] then led Plaintiffs to believe that her unlawful plan would not go forward."
Williams alleged that untracked cannabis nonetheless made its way into the cannabis stored in Groundworks' vault, and that her supervisor "told Williams not to worry about it." On February 22, Williams sent an e-mail about the problem to management, including the company's CEO.
On February 24, the suit says, Williams was fired.
"Williams had no prior write-ups, counseling or notice of performance deficiencies or inaccuracies," according to the suit.
The suit claims that McWain was also fired after her supervisor "went on McWain's computer and accessed McWain's personal Gmail account and private Facebook account that contained evidence of Loader's illegal actions with the jar shake."
According to the suit, Loader "printed a screenshot of McWain's Facebook account that included the following private message McWain had posted earlier that day to her Facebook friends: 'Lawyer friends! We need help… one of my coworkers got fired for alerting our (in house) compliance officer of some shady non-compliant BS occurring.'"
The suit cites eleven complaints, most related to wrongful discharge and whistleblower retaliation. The suit also alleges that the company violated the Stored Communication Act by accessing McWain's personal accounts.
On an unrelated matter, McWain also sued for lack of accommodation of a disability.
The total damages sought are $550,000.