The family of a deceased worker has claimed in a lawsuit that higher-ups at a Tyson Foods plant ignored Covid-19 safety norms and even bet money on how many employees would test positive for the virus.
The court document, cited by local media, alleges that a manager at the company’s largest pork processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa had organized a “cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool” for other managers and supervisors to put money on how many workers would test positive for Covid-19.
The lawsuit was filed earlier this year by the family of Isidro Fernandez, a Tyson Foods worker who died due to complications from Covid-19 in April. They claim that the bosses at the plant had grossly neglected workplace safety by requiring employees to work long hours in cramped conditions without providing necessary protective gear.
According to reports, Fernandez was one of at least six Waterloo plant workers who died from the coronavirus. Local health officials said in May that more than 1,000 employees – out of 2,800 – had tested positive either for Covid-19 or for antibodies.
The lawsuit was recently expanded to include a number of new allegations against the company.
It was claimed that a senior manager at the Waterloo plant ordered supervisors to ignore Covid-19 symptoms and to show up to work even if they had them. He allegedly dismissed the virus as a “glorified flu” and told workers not to worry because it was “not a big deal” and “everyone is going to get it.” In one case, he is said to have ordered a sick supervisor, who was on his way to get tested, to get back to work.
It was also alleged that supervisors did not require truck drivers and subcontractors to have their temperature checked, and that they were falsely denying the existence of any confirmed Covid-19 cases within the plant in March and April.
Tyson Foods declined to comment on any specific allegations in the amended lawsuit. A spokesperson sent a statement to the media, saying that the company was “saddened by the loss of any Tyson team member,” adding that it has implemented safety measures that “meet or exceed” the government-mandated guidelines for Covid-19 at all of its facilities.
The company previously insisted it was following President Donald Trump’s order for meat processing plants to stay open amid the pandemic to maintain the nation’s supply.