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Tyson Foods Inc. has hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate claims that executives at an Iowa plant were betting on whether its plant workers would contract COVID-19, the Springdale, Arkansas-based meatpacking company announced Thursday.
On Nov. 11, a group of workers filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, alleging fraudulent misrepresentations, gross negligence, and incorrigible, willful and wanton disregard for worker safety by Tyson at a pork processing facility in Waterloo, Iowa. The complaint, Fernandez v. Tyson, claimed that the meatpacking company failed to provide adequate personal protective equipment and social distancing to prevent workers from acquiring COVID-19, and also alleged that the plant manager organized “a cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many employees would test positive for COVID-19,” according to the court documents.
Tyson’s CEO Dean Banks said the statement that he is “extremely upset” by the accusations against leaders at its Waterloo plant, noting that the individuals allegedly involved have been suspended without pay. The company has retained Washington-based law firm Covington & Burling LLP, and Mr. Holder, who is now a partner with the firm, will lead the independent investigation.
Tyson said that if claims are confirmed, it will “take all measures necessary to root out and remote this disturbing behavior from our company.”
More insurance and workers compensation news on the coronavirus crisis here.
Last week's U.S. Supreme Court ruling against Tyson Foods Inc., which favors workers by holding that statistical evidence can be used to determine overtime wages to be paid in a “donning and doffing” class action, could lead to an uptick in litigation, says one expert.