The manager of a Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Iowa organized a winner-take-all betting pool for supervisors to wager on how many workers at the facility would contract COVID-19 around the start of the pandemic, a new lawsuit charges.
The manager of the Waterloo pork plant, Tom Hart, allegedly set up the sadistic wager as coronavirus spread through the company’s facilities around the globe and workers crowded into the Iowa plant without face masks or other protective equipment.
In the federal lawsuit filed in Iowa, the son of a plant worker who died of coronavirus, alleges Hart and other supervisors steered clear of the plant floor in late March and early April “because they were afraid of contracting the virus.”
“Around this time, Defendant Tom Hart, the Plant Manager of the Waterloo Facility, organized a cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many employees would test positive for COVID-19,” the suit states.
On April 12, more than two dozen workers at the plant were hospitalized with coronavirus, according to the suit.
The plant remained open despite repeated calls from local officials to stop production, the suit states, and supervisors were encouraged to work even if they had symptoms of the deadly virus.
On one occasion, a top plant official, “intercepted a sick supervisor en-route to get tested and ordered the supervisor to get back to work, adding, ‘we all have symptoms—you have a job to do’,” the suit alleges.
The plant is the company’s largest pork plant in the US and employs some 2,800 workers.
In May, the Des Moines Register reported more than 1,000 workers at the facility tested positive for the virus.
The son of the worker who filed the suit, Oscar Fernandez, is seeking unspecified damages for gross negligence.
Tyson Foods and Hart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.