Workers at a local cannabis company were sent home after the California Labor Commissioner’s Office launched an investigation following reports of violations, including unpaid wages.
On Thursday, investigators with the Bureau of Field Enforcement, a branch of the Labor Commissioner, showed up at the site of Castillo Seed Company LLC. The business also goes by Castle Management Group LLC and is located at 2265 S. Cabrillo Highway, where the Bay City Flower Co. operated for years on the coast.
The Labor Commissioner shared a formal report on the matter with the Review.
Investigators obtained payroll data and found that employees were not covered by workers’ compensation insurance as required by law. As a result, the company was cited $33,000: $1,500 for each of its 22 employees.
Company officials did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Also, employees were sent home as part of an official stop-work order. The order, which ceases all company operations, is in effect until the company provides workers’ compensation insurance.
The actions taken last week came exactly two weeks after the Labor Commissioner first received a formal complaint that the company was not paying its workers. It had been more than six weeks since the company reportedly failed to pay its employees on Dec. 16, according to whistleblowers.
Whether the company is guilty of complete nonpayment of wages and other labor violations has yet to be determined by the Labor Commissioner and will be the focus of an ongoing investigation.
“Investigators will be reviewing payroll, time records and information gathered to determine if there are any other wage and hour violations to be cited. If there are, then BOFE may be issuing additional citations,” said Luke Brown, spokesman for the Labor Commissioner’s Office, in an email to the Review.
A relative of an employee at the company who requested that his name not be used to protect the family against retaliation said the company hasn’t paid its workers since before the Christmas holiday and has since made a series of unfulfilled promises for repayment. After actions by the Labor Commissioner, he said his relative is hopeful a paycheck will come soon.
Judith Guerrero, executive director of Coastside Hope, said her organization has been helping about seven of the company’s employees since late December by providing rental assistance and utilities checks, among other relief. She said the primary complaint from those she’s helped is that they haven’t been paid for nearly two months.
“The frustrating part for me is the waiting. It’s the part that causes anxiety for them,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero said she spoke again with the workers on Thursday, after they were sent home following the Labor Commissioner’s stop-work order. They told her that they were assured they would be paid for their time away, but they didn’t know when they would be able to return, if at all.
Castillo Seed Co. is one of two industrial hemp growers in Half Moon Bay registered with the California Department of Food and Agriculture.
On its website page, which has since been taken down, the company appears to have grown cannabis and hemp from seed to flower. The Department of Industrial Relations categorized the company as producing “medicinal cannabis.”
Matt Schwaigert was identified as Castillo Seed Co’s CEO and was the recipient of the Labor Commissioner’s workers’ compensation penalty issued last week.