A wrongful death lawsuit tied to COVID-19 infections at Tyson Foods' largest pork processing plant accused the meatpacking giant of ordering employees to come in to work while supervisors had a betting pool on how many of them would get infected with the deadly coronavirus.
The family of Isidro Fernandez filed the lawsuit in August alleging that Fernandez contracted coronavirus while working at the Tyson plant in Waterloo, Iowa. Fernandez, who died in April from COVID-19 complications, was survived by a wife and children, according to the lawsuit.
Tyson Foods Downplayed Outbreak to Keep Employees Working
Fernandez was one of at least five Waterloo plant employees who succumbed to the virus. More than 1,000 workers, a third of the plant's workforce, tested positive for coronavirus, according to the Black Hawk County Health Department.
The lawsuit, filed in Black Hawk County, claims Tyson Foods is guilty of a "willful and wanton disregard for workplace safety" and accuses the company of endangering the lives of employees by downplaying virus concerns while covering up the outbreak in order to keep them working.
Betting on Workers Getting Infected
The lawsuit was recently amended to include fresh allegations against the company and plant officials, including one that claimed supervisors at the Waterloo plant began wagering money on how many workers would get COVID-19.
The lawsuit named plant manager Tom Hart of organizing a cash buy-in, winner-takes-all betting pool for supervisors and managers in mid-April to guess how many plant employees would test positive after being forced to report to work.
Employees Told to Work Despite Having COVID-19 Symptoms
Another shocking allegation reportedly details how upper-level plant manager John Casey explicitly told supervisors to continue showing up to work even if they were experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, referring to the virus as a "glorified flu" and telling workers "everyone is going to get it."
According to the lawsuit, Casey stopped a sick supervisor on their way to getting tested and ordered them back to work, saying, "You have a job to do." Managers reportedly allowed one employee who vomited on the production line to continue working and return to work the next day, the suit alleges.
Tyson Foods Denies Allegations
Although the company has not yet released a statement addressing the new allegations, it has denied the original allegations, moving the lawsuit to federal court, arguing that it it remained open because of President Donald Trump's April order requiring plants to stay open in order to maintain the nation's meat supply.
The Tyson plant eventually did close after reports that it fueled a massive coronavirus outbreak in Waterloo. More than 180 infections were linked to the plant at the time of closure, according to the Black Hawk County Health Department.
#BoycottTysonFoods is now trending on Twitter with users calling for a boycott of the meat processing company and the several brands under it.
Here are some of the reactions on Twitter: