Coronavirus US: Tyson Foods supervisors ‘placed bets on infections’

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Tyson Foods supervisors ‘placed bets on how many workers would contract COVID-19’ and called the virus the ‘glorified flu’ at Iowa plant where at least five employees died and 1,000 were infected, lawsuit claims

  • Tyson Foods is accused of putting workers at risk at its Waterloo, Iowa, plant
  • The company was hit with a wrongful death lawsuit earlier this year by the family of Isidro Fernandez, one of at least five workers who died from COVID-19
  • An amended complaint filed last week claims supervisors organized a ‘cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool’ to wager how many workers would get sick  
  • Another upper-level manager is also accused of downplaying the virus and ‘explicitly directing’ supervisors to ignore COVID symptoms 
  • The pork processing facility, which is the company’s largest in the US, was eventually forced to shut down in April

Supervisors at a Tyson Foods plant in Iowa allegedly placed bets on how many of their employees would test positive for COVID-19 and downplayed the virus, referring to it as the ‘glorified flu’, according to a lawsuit. 

An amended wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the food company last week by the family of Isidro Fernandez, one of at least five Tyson workers who died from coronavirus following an outbreak at its Waterloo plant in April. 

The family in August accused the company of ‘willful and wanton disregard for workplace safety’ at the pork-processing facility, Tyson’s largest in the country, where more than 1,000 employees contracted the virus.

Tyson Foods is accused of putting workers at risk at its Waterloo, Iowa plant, the largest in the country 

Safety measures Tyson says it put in place at a facility in Perry, Iowa

Safety measures Tyson says it put in place at a facility in Perry, Iowa

Safety measures Tyson says it put in place at a facility in Perry, Iowa 

They allege Tyson failed to implement safety measures, allowed some sick and exposed employees to keep working and falsely assured the public that the plant was safe, according to documents obtained by KWWL

Among the new allegations included in the updated complaint is that Tyson supervisors at one point privately placed bets on how many of its workers would get sick. 

The suit claims Waterloo plant manager Tom Hart in mid-April had organized a ‘cash-buy-in, winner-take-all, betting pool’ for supervisors and managers to make their wagers. 

It came around the same time the Black Hawk County Sheriff and health officials had visited the facility where they observed working conditions that ‘shook [them] to the core’, the lawsuit states. 

The company was later allegedly ordered to close the plant but refused. It eventually announced it was ‘indefinitely suspending operations’ on April 22.

Undated photo provided by the family of Sedika Buljic who died on April 18 at the age of 58 after contracting the coronavirus. Buljic's estate and the estates of two other deceased employees are suing Tyson Foods, saying the company put workers at its Waterloo pork processing plant at risk during a huge virus outbreak and lied to keep them working

Undated photo provided by the family of Sedika Buljic who died on April 18 at the age of 58 after contracting the coronavirus. Buljic's estate and the estates of two other deceased employees are suing Tyson Foods, saying the company put workers at its Waterloo pork processing plant at risk during a huge virus outbreak and lied to keep them working

Reberiano Garcia was among the workers who died of coronavirus following an outbreak at the Waterloo plant

Reberiano Garcia was among the workers who died of coronavirus following an outbreak at the Waterloo plant

Sedika Buljic (left) and Reberiano Garcia (right) were among the Tyson employees who died of coronavirus in April following a huge outbreak at the Waterloo plant 

Another upper-level manager, John Casey, has also been accused of ‘explicitly directing’ supervisors to ignore COVID symptoms and to continue showing up to work.

Casey had allegedly said the virus was the ‘glorified flu’ and ‘not a big deal’, and had told workers that ‘everyone is going to get it’, according to the complaint.

When a sick supervisor decided to get tested, Casey allegedly stopped him and ordered him back to work saying, ‘We all have symptoms – you have a job to do.’

The lawsuit also accuses Tyson of ‘incentivizing sick workers’ to continue working by offering $500 ‘thank you bonuses’ to those who showed up for every shift for three months. 

Tyson Foods did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.         

In earlier filings, the company said the workers’ deaths are tragic, but that it vigorously disputes the allegations. 

Tyson said that it worked during the pandemic to follow safety guidelines and has invested millions of dollars to keep workers safe.

Isidro Fernandez was at least the fifth employee at the Waterloo plant reported to have died during the outbreak, which infected 1,000 of its 2,800 workers.

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