Tyson Foods, Inc. said early Friday it had hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct an investigation in response to a wrongful death lawsuit. The company has suspended implicated employees without pay, too.
Meanwhile, the amended lawsuit against pork processor Tyson alleges supervisors at its Waterloo, Iowa, plant took bets on how many workers would become infected with the coronavirus.
The suit alleges supervisors took measures to protect only themselves and did nothing to provide protection for other workers.
The wrongful death lawsuit was originally filed by the son of a Tyson worker who died owing to COVID-19 complications in April. The worker, Isidro Fernandez, was employed at Tyson's Waterloo facility - its largest in the country.
The lawsuit was amended this week with new information about the behavior of the factory's supervisors. Updated lawsuit documents allege supervisors took measures to protect only themselves - with most avoiding the plant floor. Some supervisors allegedly neglected to impose social distancing protocols and forced other supervisors to deny the existence of positive cases.
New evidence was introduced by the complainants alleging that managers at the plant had 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." Managers who bet on higher numbers allegedly encouraged employees to continue working even if they were sick.
"We are extremely upset about the accusations involving some of the leadership at our Waterloo plant," Tyson Foods' chief executive officer Dean Banks said in a statement.
Banks said the actions alleged in the suit don't represent the company's ideals. Banks said that if the claims are confirmed, the company is prepared to take all necessary actions to ensure that this type of "disturbing behavior" never happens again. Banks himself is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
In April, Tyson Foods was forced to close its Waterloo facility after it was identified as a coronavirus hot spot. More than 2,800 workers had called in sick during that time. When the facility was ordered to reopen in May, the Black Hawk County health department confirmed that more than 1,000 workers had tested positive for the virus.