Managers at an Iowa pork plant were so cavalier about the COVID-19 risk to employees that they literally made a game out of it, according to an amended lawsuit from the family of Isidro Fernandez, a worker who died from the virus in April. The lawsuit now alleges that Tom Hart, manager of the Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo, organized a "cash-buy-in, winner-take-all, betting pool for supervisors and managers" in mid-April on how many workers would test positive for COVID, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reports. At least 1,000 of the plant's 2,800 employees ended up doing so, and at least five of them died. The lawsuit says managers started avoiding the plant floor in March, delegating authority to low-level supervisors who lacked the proper experience.
The lawsuit—echoing allegations in a lawsuit from the family of a worker who died at another Tyson plant—says workers were required to work in cramped conditions with no protective equipment. It also alleges that the plant discouraged employees from taking sick days and offered $500 bonuses to workers who went three months without missing a shift. The lawsuit says managers falsely told Fernandez that COVID-19 was not spreading at the facility and workers would be notified if colleagues were infected, KGAN-TV reports. It says manager John Casey told supervisors to come to work even if they were showing symptoms, calling the coronavirus the "glorified flu" and saying " it's not a big deal." Tyson has not filed a response to the new allegations. (After keeping the plant open despite objections from local officials, Tyson suspended operations in late April.)