SPRINGDALE, ARK. – Tyson Foods Inc. announced that it completed its independent investigation of managers at its Waterloo, Iowa, pork plant placing bets on employees testing positive for COVID-19. The company said its findings resulted in seven plant management employees being terminated.
“We value our people and expect everyone on the team, especially our leaders, to operate with integrity and care in everything we do,” said Dean Banks, president and chief executive officer of Tyson Foods. “The behaviors exhibited by these individuals do not represent the Tyson core values, which is why we took immediate and appropriate action to get to the truth. Now that the investigation has concluded, we are taking action based on the findings.”
After learning about the allegations, Banks and other Tyson employees traveled to Waterloo in November and again on Dec. 16 to meet with Waterloo plant employees and community leaders.
The meat producer said that after the investigation, it wants to open more communication channels to hear from workers, create a working group of local community leader to strengthen collaboration and reinform the importance of Tyson Foods’ core values and team behaviors.
“The commitment and passion that our team members exhibit every day is core to who we are at Tyson,” Banks said. “We were very upset to learn of the behaviors found in the allegations, as we expect our leaders to treat all team members with the highest levels of respect and integrity. That’s why we have asked former Attorney General Eric Holder and his team to partner with Tyson to help us as we continue to look for ways to enhance a trusting and respectful workplace.”
In an amended lawsuit in November, plant managers allegedly directed supervisors to neglect workers showing symptoms of COVID-19. The case was filed earlier in 2020 by the family of Isidro Fernandez, who died of COVID-19 complications in April.
After closing on Apr. 22, the Waterloo plant was reopened in early May. However, Black Hawk County officials expressed concerns about working conditions for employees and workers.
Other allegations in the lawsuit include:
- John Casey, a member of upper-level management at Tyson’s Waterloo facility, allegedly directed supervisors to ignore symptoms of COVID-19 and told them to show up to work even if they were showing symptoms of the virus.
- In late March, early April, most managers started to avoid the plant floor because they were afraid of contracting COVID-19. The complaint states that “managers increasingly delegated managerial authority and responsibilities to low-level supervisors with no management training or experience.”
- Tyson allegedly offered $500 “thank you bonuses” to employees who turned up for every scheduled shift for three months. The lawsuit said this policy further incentivized sick workers to continue to come to work.
- Executives of Tyson allegedly lobbied, or directed others to lobby, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and other elected officials for COVID-19 related liability protections.
Tyson Fresh Meats’ Waterloo pork plant employs approximately 2,800 workers and processes approximately 19,500 hogs per day.
The entire lawsuit can be read here.