Tyson Foods Managers Had Betting Pool Over How Many Workers Would Contract COVID, Lawsuit Claims
Managers at the Tyson Foods Inc. pork-processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa bet money on how many workers would contract COVID-19 while the facility stayed open despite local officials urging its shutdown earlier this year, a new lawsuit filed against the company reportedly alleges.
The lawsuit was filed by the family of Isidro Fernandez, who worked at the facility and was one of at least six workers to die from COVID-19 complications, according to KWWL-TV, which obtained copies of the lawsuit.
Fernandez's family reportedly claimed in the lawsuit that the company is guilty of a "willful and wanton disregard for workplace safety."
Per KWWL-TV's copies of the lawsuit, Fernandez’s family alleges that the Waterloo's plant manager, Tom Hart, organized a cash buy-in, winner-take-all, betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many of the facility's employees would contract the virus.
Tyson Foods has denied many of the allegations, telling KCCI in a statement: "We’re saddened by the loss of any Tyson team member and sympathize with their families. 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."
Fernandez's family's lawsuit also reportedly accused John Casey, an upper-level manager at the plant, of directing supervisors to ignore coronavirus symptoms.
Casey referred to COVID-19 as the "glorified flu" and told workers not to worry about it because "it's not a big deal" and "everyone is going to get it," the lawsuit reportedly alleges. Casey was also accused of forcing a sick supervisor, who was on his way to be tested for COVID-19, to keep working. Casey allegedly told the supervisor, "we all have symptoms - you have a job to do."
In addition, Tyson offered offered “thank you bonuses” of $500 if they attended every shift they were assigned to for three months amid the pandemic, per the lawsuit.
According to the Des Moines Register, the Waterloo plant shut down for two weeks beginning in late April after over 1,000 employees tested positive for COVID-19.
Tyson Foods Inc. has not responded to PEOPLE's request for comment.
The Waterloo facility is Tyson Food's largest park plant in the country and employs around 2,800 workers.