You can bet on horse races, boxing matches, and even the Superbowl, but why, oh, why would you bet on the lives of your co-workers? That's exactly what a new wrongful death lawsuit alleges against managers at the Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa. According to the allegations, one plant manager of the Waterloo facility created a "cash buy-in, winner-take-all" betting pool of how many team members would get sick at the Waterloo plant.
Tyson Managers Bet on Employees Catching Coronavirus According to Lawsuit
According to The Washington Post, over 1,000 employees of the meat processing plant fell ill to symptoms of COVID-19, testing positive and shutting down the production line and processing plant in April 2020. The Black Hawk County Health Department and Black Hawk County Sheriff noted that the spikes in their county were due to spikes in cases at the plant. When asked in April, Sheriff Tony Thompson stated the plant should be shut down and be cleaned to "reset".
"Despite an uncontrolled COVID-19 outbreak, Tyson required its employees to work long hours in cramped conditions," the lawsuit alleges. "Moreover, despite the danger of COVID-19, Tyson failed to provide appropriate personal protective equipment and failed to implement sufficient social distancing or safety measures to protect workers from the outbreak."
The lawsuit was filed by Oscar Fernandez, the son of Isidro Fernandez who was one of the many workers that caught coronavirus while working at the Tyson Foods Plant. He died on April 26 from complications of Covid-19, the lawsuit says. Another five employees also died according to the Associated Press.
After the plant reopened, the company issued the following statement: "We're saddened by the loss of any Tyson team member and sympathize with their families," Tyson Foods spokesman Gary Mickelson told The Washington Post in a statement. "Our top priority is the health and safety of our workers and we've implemented a host of protective measures at Waterloo and our other facilities that meet or exceed CDC and OSHA guidance for preventing Covid-19."
The suit was filed in Iowa state court and on November 11 alleging the gross negligence of the safety of the employees and unsafe working conditions caused workers to get sick; an amended complaint shared that Tyson Foods managers turned the risk into a game.
"If these claims are confirmed, we'll take all measures necessary to root out and remove this disturbing behavior from our company," Dean Banks, Tyson's chief executive said.
Following the allegations the managers have been suspended without pay and an independent investigation is underway. The lawsuit also claims an upper manager claimed the coronavirus pandemic was a glorified flu and the company rolled out a $500 bonus for employees who showed up for all scheduled shifts, urging sick employees to continue to work.
Today there have been over 9,000 Covid-19 cases in Black Hawk County.