Tyson Foods Managers Gambled on Workers Catching COVID-19 in Sick Office Pool

Posted on: November 20, 2020, 08:08h. 

Last updated on: November 20, 2020, 09:53h.

Managers at meat industry giant Tyson Foods took bets on which workers would contract Covid-19 as a coronavirus outbreak swept through its Waterloo, Iowa facility.

Tyson Foods
Tyson Foods plant manager Tom Hart, pictured, is accused of organizing the office pool and is currently suspended without pay. (Image: Kelly Wenzel/WCF Courier)

The company has endured months of negative headlines over its response to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite meat-processing factories proving to be perfect environments for the virus to linger and spread, Tyson initially refused to implement recommended measures to protect its workforce.

Now, months after a serious outbreak at the Waterloo plant, the lawsuits are piling up. Among them is a wrongful death suit filed by the family of Isidro Fernandez, who died in April after contracting the virus at the facility.

According to The Des Moines Register, more than 1,000 workers were infected by the outbreak. The Associated Press says at least six of these died.

The Fernandez family’s lawsuit was amended this week to include the allegations that managers were gambling — literally — with the health of their employees.

‘Winner Takes All’ on Covid-19 Bet 

Plant manager Tom Hart is accused of organizing 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.”

Evidence of the twisted sweepstake was uncovered after the law firm representing the Fernandez family and other workers interviewed former Tyson officials.

Hart and others alleged to be involved are currently suspended without pay. Tyson Foods President and CEO Dean Banks said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon that the company would “take all measures necessary to root out and remove this disturbing behavior from our company” if the allegations were found to be true.

“We are extremely upset about the accusations involving some of the leadership at our Waterloo plant,” Banks said. “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 Behaviors.

Sick Employees Told to Show Up to Work 

Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, condemned the “shocking report,” which he said should “outrage every American.”

The lawsuit also claims Tyson managers demanded staff members show up to work even if they were experiencing COVID-like symptoms.

One manager, John Casey, stopped a sick supervisor on their way to get tested and ordered them back to work, saying, “You have a job to do,” the lawsuit claims.

Tyson incentivized infected staff to keep working by offering a $500 thank-you bonus for perfect attendance at the end of three months.

At least one worker “vomited on the production line and management allowed him to continue working and return to work the next day,” states the lawsuit.

It asks for an undisclosed amount of punitive damages “to punish the Supervisory Defendants for their willful and wanton disregard for workplace safety and culpable state of mind.”

Tyson has hired law firm Covington & Burling LLP to investigate the matter, which will be led by former US Attorney General Eric Holder.