Wrongful death suit alleges Tyson Foods managers had ‘betting poll’ on how many workers would be infected with COVID

Wrongful death suit alleges Tyson Foods managers had ‘betting poll’ on how many workers would be infected with COVID
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One of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in a meat-packing facility occurred in April at a Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo, Iowa, where more than 1000 employees were infected with COVID-19. At least five of them died. And a wrongful death lawsuit, according to Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter Clark Kauffman, alleges that managers at the Tyson plant "ordered employees to report for work while supervisors privately wagered money on the number of workers who would be sickened by the deadly virus."

Isidro Fernandez was among the Tyson employees who died from COVID-19 in April, and his family's lawsuit alleges that he was exposed to the novel coronavirus at the Waterloo plant. Tyson, the lawsuit alleges, showed a "willful and wanton disregard for workplace safety" by forcing employees to work in cramped conditions during a global pandemic and failing to observe social distancing guidelines at the Waterloo plant.

Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson visited the plant in mid-April — Fernandez died on April 20 — and said that the conditions he observed "shook (him) to the core." And according to Kauffman, it was during that period that plant manager Tom Hart "organized a cash-buy-in, winner-take-all, betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many plant employees would test positive for COVID-19."

Kauffman notes that John Casey, one of the plant's senior managers, "is alleged to have explicitly directed supervisors to ignore symptoms of COVID-19, telling them to show up to work even if they were exhibiting symptoms of the virus." Casey, according to Kauffman, allegedly told a sick supervisor who was on his way to get tested for COVID-19, "We all have symptoms — you have a job to do."

One Tyson employee, according to Kauffman, was so sick that he "vomited on the production line" — and managers "reportedly allowed the man to continue working and then return to work the next day."

"In late March or early April, as the pandemic spread across Iowa, managers at the Waterloo plant reportedly began avoiding the plant floor for fear of contracting the virus," Kauffman explains. "As a result, they increasingly delegated managerial authority and responsibilities to low-level supervisors who had no management training or experience. The supervisors did not require truck drivers and subcontractors to have their temperatures checked before entering the plant."

Here are some Twitter responses to the Iowa Capital Dispatch's reporting on the wrongful death lawsuit:

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