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A manager at a food processing plant is alleged to have run a betting pool on how many of his workers would contract coronavirus.
A new lawsuit alleges that Tom Hart, a manager at Tyson Foods in Waterloo, Iowa, set up the wager while workers in the plant were failing to social-distance, wear face masks or any other personal protective equipment (PPE).
An amended wrongful death lawsuit was filed against Tyson Foods last week by the family of Isidro Fernandez who died from coronavirus following an outbreak at the plant in April.
Mr Fernandez was one of at least five workers at the plant who died after contracting the killer bug.
The Iowa site is the company’s largest pork plant in the US and employs 2,800 workers.
At least five workers at the plant died from coronavirus
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According to Des Moines Register more than 1,000 employees at the plant tested positive for Covid-19.
A federal lawsuit filed by his son Oscar Fernandez claims Hart and other supervisors avoided being on the plant floor in late March and early April “because they were afraid of contracting the virus."
The lawsuit states: “Around this time, Defendant Tom Hart, the Plant Manager of the Waterloo Facility, organised a cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many employees would test positive for Covid-19."
Despite repeated requests from local officials for the plant to stop production it remained open. It eventually announced it was "indefinitely suspending operations' on April 22.
Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Iowa
(Image: REUTERS/Brenna Norman)
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The lawsuit also claims supervisors were encouraged to work even if they had symptoms of the deadly virus by bosses offering a $500 'thank you bonus' to those who showed up for every shift for three months.
Another upper-level manager, John Casey, is claimed to have directed supervisors to ignore coronavirus symptoms and to continue showing up to work.
Casey allegedly said Covid-19 was 'glorified flu' and 'not a big deal'.
He is also claimed to have told workers that 'everyone is going to get it', according to lawsuit.
The US has the highest infection rate in the world
The suit also alleges that on one occasion Casey stopped a sick supervisor en-route to get tested and ordered them to return to work.
He is claimed to have told the supervisor: "We all have symptoms – you have a job to do."
Dean Banks, President and CEO of Tyson Foods sent a statement to Iowa News saying the managers named in the lawsuit have been suspended pending an independent investigation into the claims.
He said: “We are extremely upset about the accusations involving some of the leadership at our Waterloo plant.
"Tyson Foods is a family company with 139,000 team members and these allegations do not represent who we are, or our core values and Team behaviours.
"We expect every team member at Tyson Foods to operate with the utmost integrity and care in everything we do.
We have suspended, without pay, the individuals allegedly involved and have retained the law firm Covington & Burling LLP to conduct an independent investigation led by former Attorney General Eric Holder.
"If these claims are confirmed, we’ll take all measures necessary to root out and remove this disturbing behaviour from our company.
"Our top priority is and remains the health and safety of our team members.
"We’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars to transform our U.S. facilities, including the Waterloo plant, with protective measures, from walk-through temperature scanners and workstation dividers to social distance monitors and always-on testing.”
The US is the worst coronavirus-affected country in the world.
As of Thursday it recorded 2,005,727 cases and 257,597 deaths.