Tyson Foods has suspended managers at its largest pork plant in Iowa, after a lawsuit alleges that they were betting on how many workers would contract Covid-19.
A wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the son of Isidro Fernandez, an employee at the Waterloo plant who died with Covid-19, claiming that the managers misled workers and allowed sick employees to continue working.
Isidro Fernandez was one of more than 1,000 workers infected amid the plant’s outbreak, which killed at least six and sent many others to hospital.
Waterloo plant manager Tom Hart has been accused of organising a “cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager on how many employees would test positive for Covid-19” amid the widespread outbreak.
Tyson Foods president and CEO, Dean Banks, said he was “extremely upset” about the accusations and that the individuals involved had been suspended without pay.
The allegation was first reported on Wednesday by the Iowa Capital Dispatch news site.
The news comes after US senators launched an investigation into the company regarding their handling of pork exports and worker safety during the coronavirus pandemic. At the time of the alleged betting, Tyson was resisting pressure to shut down the plant as a safety measure, but eventually suspended operations.
In an issued statement, Banks announced that law firm Covington & Burling will conduct an independent investigation into the allegations, led by former US Attorney General Eric Holder.
Banks added: “Tyson Foods is a family company with 139,000 team members and these allegations do not represent who we are, or our core values and team behaviours.
“If these claims are confirmed, we’ll take all measures necessary to root out and remove this disturbing behaviour from our company.”
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