OMAHA, NEB. – The United States District Court for the District of Nebraska decided to dismiss a complaint by former employees of Noah’s Ark Processors, a Hastings, Neb., beef processing plant, who claimed that the company did not take enough steps to protect workers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Judge John M. Gerrard oversaw the case that was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nebraska and the former employees.
Gerrard said in his order that the plaintiffs did not have standing since they are no longer employed at the facility.
“The people directly put at risk by Noah’s Ark’s alleged misconduct are the people who work there now, and the plaintiffs cannot assert their claims for them,” Gerrard wrote. “The ‘emotional distress and fear’ the plaintiffs say they would suffer if their former co-workers caught COVID-19 won’t suffice to allow them to sue in their own right.”
The original case was filed in November 2020 by the ACLU and the three people who went by pseudonyms. The complaint alleged that Noah’s Ark Processors’ actions led to COVID-19 outbreaks in Adams County and Hall County, where many of the workers live.
However, Gerrard ruled that the court would be speculating about contracting COVID-19 only at the facility.
The order stated that “the plaintiffs rely on the threat COVID-19 poses to their community…but as we’ve all learned over the past year, there are lots of ways for COVID-19 to spread in a community, through other meat processing facilities (as the plaintiffs point out), other employers, and other gathering places.”
Later in his ruling, Gerrard explained that the plaintiffs cannot advocate for workers still employed at Noah’s Ark.
“The former-employee plaintiffs have been proceeding in this case pseudonymously because of possible retaliation, but the plaintiffs haven’t articulated any reason why current employees couldn’t do the same,” Gerrard said in his order. “And of course, third-party standing exists as an exception to prudential standing requirements.”