, the second largest processor of chicken, beef, and pork in the world, is facing criticism after an employee’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that, when the pandemic was first spreading in the United States, managers bet money on the number of employees who would become sick with the virus. The family of Isidro Fernandez, an employee who died after working for Tyson during the pandemic, claims that he caught the virus while working at the plant.

Allegations Against Tyson

Fernandez is one of at least five Tyson employees who died from the virus. Additionally, over 1,000 Tyson employees have contracted the virus thus far. One plant manager also allegedly referred to the virus as the “glorified flu” and told employees that “everyone is going to get it.” Other managers allegedly lied about having any COVID-19 cases within the plant and told workers they had a responsibility to keep working to ensure Americans didn’t go hungry during the pandemic. Finally, the lawsuit claims that Tyson failed to enforce pandemic workplace safety protocol, such as providing employees with personal protective equipment. Ultimately, the lawsuit concludes that Tyson’s actions constituted a “willful and wanton disregard for workplace safety.” The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, enacted to prevent workers from dying or becoming seriously injured at work, is a federal law that requires employers to ensure a safe working environment. Tony Thompson, the local county sheriff, has said that the working conditions at Tyson’s plant “shook him to the core.”

Tyson’s Response to Allegations

Tyson’s President and CEO recently issued a statement in response to the lawsuit, saying “We are extremely upset about the accusations involving some of the leadership at our Waterloo plant. Tyson Foods is a family company with 139,000 team members and these allegations do not represent who we are . . . Our top priority is and remains the health and safety of our team members.” Tyson has also suspended the accused managers without pay while it conducts an independent investigation of the lawsuit’s claims. However, in court filings, Tyson’s lawyers have said that the company “vigorously disputes” the lawsuit’s claims and has “invested millions of dollars to provide employees with safety and risk-mitigation equipment.”

How Could the Tyson Plant Stay Open During the Pandemic?

While many state governments ordered businesses to close during the early stages of the pandemic, Tyson’s lawyers also claim the company had to remain open when President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act in April. Tyson says that this Act, originally from the Korean-War area, allowed the President to order meat plants to remain open in order to protect the U.S. food supply throughout the pandemic.

Seek Legal Assistance Today

If you have experienced an unsafe workplace during the pandemic, seek legal assistance today. The Law Office of Christopher Q. Davis, located in New York City, can assist you. Contact us today at (646) 430-7930 to schedule a free case evaluation and receive experienced legal counsel.

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