LITTLE ROCK, ARK. — Thirty-four Tyson Foods current and former employees and their family members filed a complaint against the meat processor on March 6 for failing to implement proper health and wellness precautions early on in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This case arises from Tyson’s misrepresentations, gross negligence, and willful and wanton disregard for the health, safety, and lives of workers and their family members, which led to extreme emotional distress, illness, and death of Tyson employees and their family members,” said the lawsuit filed with the Pulaski County Circuit Court.
Several of the plaintiffs were employed or are employed at the following Tyson facilities: the Berry Street Plant in Springdale, Ark., the Van Buren Plant in Van Buren, Ark., Plant 1 in Green Forest, Ark., and the Tyson Chick-N-Quick and Tyson in Rogers Plants in Rogers, Ark.
“At each of these facilities, Tyson did not take appropriate steps to protect plant workers from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the lawsuit alleges. “Social distancing protocols, masks and other mitigating efforts, and testing for the virus were not implemented in any capacity until far after Tyson was on notice of the dangers of COVID-19 and was aware of guidelines, including from government agencies, regarding how to best combat the spread of the virus.”
At these five facilities, Tyson allegedly did not provide masks nor enforce a mask mandate until late April 2020 and did not practice social distancing until May 2020.
The complaint goes on to say Tyson offered a $500 bonus to employees who worked through the month of July. A day missed, including for quarantining, resulted in a loss of the bonus.
The plaintiffs are requesting compensation for the emotional distress they experienced through fear for themselves and/or family members contracting COVID-19 as a result of poor virus preventions at their place of employment. They seek damages in excess of $1 million.
Tyson declined to comment at the time of publication.
Tyson has faced other lawsuits regarding damages done during the pandemic. In February 2023, Tyson asked the Supreme Court to hear an appeal on two of such lawsuits but was denied. Tyson had argued that meatpacking facilities were under an executive order that forced the company to stay open under the Defense Production Act.