Tyson fires 7 managers accused of betting on how many workers would get COVID-19

Tyson Foods is facing new legal challenges in court, but the company is making headway in attempting to move wrongful-death cases tied to the pandemic from state court to federal court. (Photo provided by Tyson Fresh Meats)

Tyson Foods fired seven plant managers in Waterloo following an independent investigation into allegations that they privately wagered money on the number of workers who would be sickened by COVID-19.

In a statement on Wednesday, Tyson CEO Dean Banks said the firings were “based on the findings” from the investigation, though those details were not released.

Allegations filed in a wrongful death lawsuit, first reported by Iowa Capital Dispatch, accused Tyson Foods of “willful and wanton disregard for workplace safety,” specifically at its Waterloo pork processing plant.

In mid-April, plant manager Tom Hart organized 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, according to the lawsuit.

According to the Black Hawk County Health Department, more than 1,000 workers at the plant — over a third of the facility’s workforce — contracted the virus.

After the allegations were reported, Banks traveled to Waterloo last month and again on Tuesday to meet with employees and community leaders, according to Tyson’s news release.

“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 said in a statement. “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.”