Lawsuit: Tyson plant managers placed bets on Covid-19 case numbers

This story was updated at 5:55 P.M., EST to include comments from Tyson Foods.

In mid-April, as the coronavirus was ripping through Tyson’s largest pork plant in the United States, where a county sheriff said working conditions had him “shook to the core,” managers were telling supervisors to ignore “the glorified flu,” and organizing a cash wager on how many employees would test positive for Covid-19. Those explosive allegations were made in a recently amended lawsuit filed by the family of Isidro Fernandez, a Waterloo, Iowa, plant worker who died from complications from the virus. The suit seeks damages for misrepresentation and gross negligence, Iowa Capital Dispatch reports.

More than 1,000 workers at the plant, or over a third of its workforce, have contracted the virus, and Fernandez’s family is the fourth to sue, after three others filed a wrongful death lawsuit in June. Tyson has yet to file a formal response to the new allegations, but has said in previous court filings that it vigorously disputes the claims. In July, the meat giant, which has had far more cases than any other meatpacker, announced it would start testing employees in all facilities.

Editor’s note: After this article published, Tyson contacted The Counter with a statement on the allegations:

“We are extremely upset about the accusations involving some of the leadership at our Waterloo plant. Tyson Foods is a family company with 139,000 team members and these allegations do not represent who we are, or our CORE VALUES and Team Behaviors. We expect every team member at Tyson Foods to operate with the utmost integrity and care in everything we do. We have suspended, without pay, the individuals allegedly involved and have retained the law firm Covington & Burling LLP to conduct an independent investigation led by former Attorney General Eric Holder. If these claims are confirmed, we’ll take all measures necessary to root out and remove this disturbing behavior from our company.

Our top priority is and remains the health and safety of our team members. We’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars to transform our U.S. facilities, including the Waterloo plant, with protective measures, from walk-through TEMPERATURE SCANNERS and workstation dividers to SOCIAL DISTANCE MONITORS and ALWAYS-ON TESTING.”

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