Back in 2020 when the pandemic was running at full-throttle, it became an infamous story when it was revealed that some of Tyson Foods’ company managers were betting money on how many of their employees would contract COVID-19. That anyone was betting money on the potential deaths of their own employees were abhorrent enough, but the situation went beyond that. Along with that coverage, the company also came under fire for how little it seemed to care in general for its workers in the midst of a pandemic.
The Lawsuit Details
The lawsuit itself claims that the Tyson Foods managers were responsible for “fraudulent misrepresentations, gross negligence and incorrigible, willful, and wanton disregard for worker safety”. To dive further into the details, the whole cash-betting on COVID-19 worker victims was orchestrated by the plant manager of the Waterloo facility, Tom Hart. At the time of the original incidents, the Waterloo plant was under advisement to shut down by the Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson. The plant did not shut down, and by May of 2020, the plant had already over 1,000 workers that tested positive for COVID-19.
Tyson Foods did fire 7 plant managers once the COVID-19 betting ring had come to light, but it did little to repair the damage and harm caused by it. At least 49 employees have either died or been injured from long-term effects of COVID-19 because of the Waterloo facility and its mismanagement. That is just one of the reasons why the lawsuit continues, but it is currently on hold.
Lawsuit on Hold in the Federal Appeals Court
Presently, the lawsuit remains on hold while Tyson Foods claims that it cannot be sued because it was acting under federal instructions to maintain the nation’s food supply by keeping its plant open. The company argues that their order was given by the former-President Donald Trump. The US Dept of Agriculture, and the US Dept of Homeland Security. With this argument, they believe they can’t be held responsible for any wrongful death or personal injury claims unless it’s taken to a federal court.
The issue is the lawsuit is now on hold as a federal appeals court determines whether they will let the case move forward to federal court or if they will push it back to the state court once again.
A further complication was created by a Texas ruling for 38 Tyson employees at the Amarillo plant who either got sick with COVID-19 or were killed by it. In that ruling, a judge had recognized that Tyson Foods was “acting under the direction of federal officials”. But this hasn’t stopped shareholders from speaking their minds as even they are filing multiple lawsuits against the company for both the endangerment of their frontline workers as well as their false and misleading claims about COVID-19 that they had used to try keeping their workers working instead of seeking testing, treatment, and avoiding the possibility of catching COVID-19.
Whether the lawsuits work out or not, it is clear that going forward Tyson Foods will not be standing under the same light it used to as families who’ve lost loved ones will remember the company for its neglectful actions.
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