WATERLOO, Iowa - Tyson Foods has hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate accusations that plant managers in Waterloo took bets on how many workers would get COVID-19.
The plant supervisor and a high-ranking manager have been suspended without pay after the accusations were added to a lawsuit from the family of a deceased worker.
The Star-Herald reported that workers reacted by walking off the job Thursday afternoon, and the plant had closed.
The lawsuit claims managers organized a winner-take-all betting pool and instructed other managers to ignore COVID-19 symptoms during an outbreak at the plant.
The Waterloo Tyson plant was temporarily closed in April after two dozen workers were admitted to local emergency rooms with COVID-19 symptoms.
Five employees died from the virus. The lawsuit, which includes the new allegations, was brought by the family of deceased worker Isidro Fernandez.
The suit claims plant manager Tom Hart organized a betting pool and upper-level manager John Casey explicitly directed supervisors to ignore COVID-19 symptoms, and referred to the virus as the "glorified flu".
In a statement, Tyson the company said it's "extremely upset" about the accusations. "If these claims are confirmed, we'll take all measures necessary to root out and remove this disturbing behavior from our company," the statement said.
The civil rights groups League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa (LULAC) and Forward Latino said they're working to get to the bottom of a wrongful death lawsuit.