Tyson Foods fires 7 managers at Iowa meat factory over COVID-19 betting allegations

Tyson Foods has fired seven factory managers after an independent investigation into claims that company leaders are betting on how many employees would become infected with COVID-19, the company announced Wednesday. The allegations against managers at the Waterloo, Iowa plant were part of a lawsuit filed by the son of an employee who died of the coronavirus in April.

“We value our people and expect everyone on the team, especially our leaders, to act with integrity and diligence in everything we do,” said Dean Banks, president and CEO of Tyson Foods. “The behavior of these individuals does not represent Tyson’s core values, so we took immediate and appropriate action to find out the truth. Now that the investigation is complete, we are taking action based on the findings.”

The lawsuit, which was filed in early November, alleges that the plant manager of the Waterloo facility has “organized a cash buy-in, winner-take-all bet for supervisors and managers to bet how many employees would test positive for COVID-19. . ”

The lawsuit further alleges that supervisors were instructed to “ignore symptoms of COVID-19” and that employees were encouraged to come to work even if they showed symptoms of the virus. The lawsuit also alleges that the company has not provided adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and has not taken appropriate steps to distance itself from society.

CBS News previously reported that Tyson has denied many of the lawsuit’s claims. When asked about the lawsuit on Wednesday, a spokesperson said the company is “saddened by the loss of a Tyson team member and sympathizes with their families. Our top priority is the health and safety of our employees, and we have a host of protective measures in place. at our facilities that meet or exceed CDC and OSHA guidelines for the prevention of COVID-19. ”

Tyson said it the managers suspended charged with betting on COVID tests days after the lawsuit was filed, and hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct an independent review of the claims.

This isn’t the only time the factory has faced controversies over how to handle COVID-19. In April, The Associated Press reported that local lawmakers were urging the factory to close the factory, warning that the rapid transmission of the virus among workers was dangerous for both workers and the community. At the time, meat plants across the country emerged as hot spots of the virus.

Tyson temporarily closed the plant on April 22 and invited its 2,800 employees to be tested at the facility, CBS partner KCCI-TV reported. The company reopened two weeks later – at the time, officials said more than 1,000 Tyson workers were infected, according to AP.

A lawsuit was filed earlier this month accused the company of discouraging interpreters from discussing the virus, except to falsely claim it wasn’t a problem at the facility. A spokesman for Tyson at the time declined to comment on the matter.

Kate Gibson contributed to this report.