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Workers File COVID Lawsuit against Tyson Foods Inc.


A lawsuit was filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court in Arkansas relating to the 2020 outbreak of COVID.  The suit claims that a decision to continue operating processing plants through April 2020 resulted in emotional distress, illness and death among workers.


The suit claims that Tyson should have known the implications of COVID in plants based on events in China and failed to provide protective gear or to arrange for social distancing until April 2020.


Red meat packers and poultry processors are now subject to claims by workers. The U.S. Supreme Court failed to grant certiorari, letting stand previous Appellate court decisions that the Presidential Executive Order 13917 of April 28th 2020 did not provide exemption from claims by employees.  The Presidential Executive Order was based on Section 101(B) of the Act (50 U.S. C. 4511 (B) allowing the Secretary of Agriculture to take appropriate action to ensure that meat and poultry processors continued operations consistent with the guidance jointly issued by the CDC and OSHA.


Investigative journalists subsequently confirmed that the Executive Order incorporated text from a document prepared the North American Meat Institute.


In the defense of the chicken industry, as soon as the magnitude of COVID and its infectivity became apparent, measures were taken to reduce the risk of exposure. These included supplying personal protective gear, placement of partitions between workstations, social distancing where possible and modifying plant ventilation.  Most companies instituted health screening in an attempt to identify potentially infected workers who were obliged to isolate with paid leave.  Irrespective of whether companies were afforded protection in terms of the Executive Order, evidence shows that most processors including Perdue Farms and Tyson Foods made every effort to apply known protective measures to prevent the spread of COVID among workers in plants.


Copyright © 2023 Simon M. Shane