AMARILLO, TEXAS— Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) announced that a former employee of the JBS USA meatpacking plant near Amarillo, Texas, won a workers’ compensation case that started from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in April 2020.
After contracting the virus, Jose Tovar, became sick and unable to work for three weeks. JBS’ workers compensation insurer, American Zurich Insurance Co., denied Tovar’s claim for lost wages.
Last month, a state administrative judge ordered the insurer to pay damages to Tovar. The judge found that Tovar contracted COVID-19 at the JBS plant.
"I am happy that a judge found that JBS's insurance company needed to be held accountable for what happened to me, and I hope they will be held accountable for the many other workers who became seriously ill at the JBS plant," Tovar in a statement on the TRLA website.
The group said the decision is final since JBS did not appeal by the May 18 deadline.
JBS released the following statement on the workers’ compensation case.
“In the instance referenced, Mr. Tovar was compensated for the time he was away from work, consistent with our policy,” a company spokesperson said. “Team members who test positive for COVID-19 are eligible for short-term disability, and the company covers 100% of all COVID-related health expenses for those enrolled in our health insurance plan. Unfortunately, due to a processing error at the facility, Mr. Tovar did not receive his full payment in a timely fashion per our policy. As soon as this error was discovered, Mr. Tovar was compensated for his time away from work.”