WATERLOO, Iowa – Tyson Foods has fired seven managers at its largest pork plant following an independent investigation into allegations that they placed private bets on how many workers would test positive for the novel coronavirus.
“We value our people and expect everyone on the team, especially our leaders, to operate with integrity and care in everything we do,” Tyson Foods President and CEO Dean Banks said in a statement. “The behavior exhibited by these individuals does not represent the Tyson core values, which is why we took immediate and appropriate action to get to the truth.”
The company announced the firings at its Waterloo, Iowa, facility on Wednesday but declined to elaborate on the investigation’s findings, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported. The investigation was led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
The allegations stemmed from a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a deceased plant employee, accusing Tyson of “willful and wanton disregard for workplace safety” at the Waterloo facility. Three additional families of Waterloo plant employees have since filed suits.
The original suit, filed earlier this year by the family of the late Isidro Fernandez, alleged that their loved one was knowingly exposed to the virus while working at the Waterloo plant. It was amended recently to levy specific charges of wrongdoing against particular managers, including an accusation against plant manager Tom Hart for organizing a “cash buy-in, winner-take-all, betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many plant employees would test positive for COVID-19,” KWWL reported.
According to the Black Hawk County Health Department, more than 1,000 workers at the Waterloo plant, or more than one-third of the facility’s total workforce, contracted COVID-19, the Capital Dispatch reported.
Fernandez was among at least five fatalities linked to the outbreak.
“We were very upset to learn of the behaviors found in the allegations, as we expect our leaders to treat all team members with the highest levels of respect and integrity,” Banks stated. “That’s why we have asked former Attorney General Eric Holder and his team to partner with Tyson to help us as we continue to look for ways to enhance a trusting and respectful workplace.”
Although Wednesday’s announcement did not name the fired managers, CNBC identified some of the managers targeted in multiple lawsuits brought by the four different families as Hart, John Casey, Cody Brustkern, Bret Tapken and human resources director James Hook as defendants.
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