CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA – A recent ruling by a federal judge stated that Tyson Foods Inc. will not have to give incentive pay to former company supervisors who were fired in 2020 after an investigation revealed they were placing bets on how many workers would be infected with COVID-19.

Tyson decided to fire seven supervisors at the Waterloo, Iowa, pork processing plant in December of 2020 following the incident and revoked incentive payments.

In October of 2022, five of the employees filed a lawsuit seeking $300,000 in incentive payments.

The lawsuit insisted that the workers earned the incentive pay and should receive the money under the Iowa Wage Payment Collection Law (IWPCL).

After hearing their argument, Leonard T. Strand, chief US District Judge of the Northern District of Iowa dismissed the case.

“The express language of both Tyson’s AIP policy and the AIP statements on which plaintiffs rely could not be more clear: Tyson was under no contractual obligation to make AIP bonus payments to plaintiffs for their work in 2020,” Strand wrote. “As such, the withheld AIP bonuses are not ‘wages’ that plaintiffs may recover under the IWPCL. Tyson is entitled to judgment in its favor as a matter of law.”

Strand also noted that this ruling cancels a trial that was scheduled to start in June 2024.

After closing in April 2020 due to the virus, the Waterloo plant was reopened in early May, but Black Hawk County officials expressed concerns about working conditions for all the employees. The Black Hawk County Health Department previously reported that more than 1,000 employees of the facility contracted COVID-19.