WASHINGTON – The latest legal action in a growing number of coronavirus (COVID-19)-related lawsuits targeting meat and poultry companies and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) involves three workers at Maid-Rite Specialty Foods, based in Dunmore, Pa. In a complaint filed with the Middle District Court of Pennsylvania, three plaintiffs (Jane Does I, II II and Friends of Farmworkers) working at the plant allege workers were not protected from “imminent dangers” due to the company not taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the plant.
The lawsuit states that the company did not respond to known hazards likely to injure or kill its workers by not providing protection from the virus. The complaint said the company failed to supply workers with face coverings and did not implement social distancing measures on the production line or provide them with information about potential exposure risks. The company also allegedly increased workers’ exposure to the virus by bringing in workers from other facilities to work in the plant. The complaint said the company was not willing to incur the cost to implement precautions, including reducing production by slowing the line speed to accommodate social distancing between workers, and OSHA has not taken action.
The plaintiffs contend OSHA officials are aware of the precautions needed to protect workers in meat processing plants as demonstrated in its guidance issued in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The complaint states that OSHA has been aware of the plant's safety shortfalls for more than three months.
“…OSHA’s responsibility is to protect workers, not to safeguard profits at the cost of worker injury,” according to the lawsuit filed with the court.
“Plaintiffs cannot wait any longer for OSHA to act. Pursuant to the mechanism Congress created for the express purpose of situations like the one before the court here, they respectfully request that this court order the Secretary, through OSHA, to obtain immediate relief from the imminent dangers the Worker Plaintiffs and their co-workers face every day they report to work,” the complaint said.