Tyson Lawsuits Say Managers Bet Money on How Many Employees Would Catch COVID-19

Four plaintiffs alleging that the actions of Tyson Foods caused the death of their relatives by allowing them to contract COVID-19 filed an amended complaint on Wednesday adding allegations that managers at Tyson’s facility in Waterloo, Iowa, placed wagers on how many employees at the facility would contract COVID-19. 

On November 11, Oscar Fernandez, on behalf of his family member, Isidro Fernandez, who reportedly died from complications of COVID-19 in April, filed a first amended complaint in another lawsuit regarding the same plant also added similar allegations. 

The complaints contained similar allegations to other lawsuits against the company, including that it required employees to work long hours and that it did not provide protective equipment or the ability to socially distance during the COVID-19 pandemic. They added allegations that, while requiring employees to come to work, managers wagered money on the number of people who would develop symptoms. A County Sheriff allegedly included in a report after visiting the location that the plant manager organized a winner-take-all betting pool for the supervisors and managers on the number of positive tests. The sheriff’s report also said that one plant manager called COVID-19 a “glorified flu” and said that everyone would get it, in addition to sending sick employees back to work. 

According to an article in Iowa Capital Dispatch, Tyson issued a written statement in response to the complaint, which said it was “saddened” by the death of Tyson employees, but that it would not comment on the specific allegations. The company said its “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.”

The plaintiffs purported that their family members, along with over 1,000 other employees at the facility, contracted COVID-19 because of the actions of the defendants. At least five employees at the location reportedly died after contracting the virus. The Waterloo plant closed after reports came out that it was causing an outbreak of COVID-19 in the city, with 180 infections being traced to the plant. 

In addition to allegations of betting, the amended complaints added other allegations, including that as the outbreak got worse, managers avoided the plant floor and instead delegated tasks to lower-level management, who did not have the necessary training. The plaintiffs also claimed that contractors and truck drivers were not required to have temperature checks and that plant supervisors denied that there were any confirmed positive COVID-19 tests at the plant, after infections had been confirmed.

Tyson and the other individual defendants are represented by Finley Law Firm, P.C., and Perkins Coie LLP. Plaintiffs in both lawsuits are represented by Frerichs Law Office, P.C., Rausch Law Firm, PLLC, and The Spence Law Firm, LLC. They are seeking damages for negligence and fraudulent misrepresentation.