Tyson Foods fires 7 managers accused of betting on employee COVID-19 infections at Iowa plant

A Tyson Foods plant in Waterloo, Iowa.
(Brandon Pollock / The Courier)

Seven Tyson Foods plant managers who were accused of betting on how many employees would get the coronavirus were fired Wednesday, the company said.

The suspected pool at Tyson’s pork plant in Waterloo, Iowa, was first reported in a November lawsuit filed by the son of Isidro Fernandez, a plant employee who died from COVID-19.

The lawsuit also accused of Tyson of disregarding worker safety while keeping the plant open and pressuring sick employees to keep working.


But the most eye-catching accusation was that managers bet on how many employees at the northeast Iowa plant would get the virus. Eventually, more than 1,000 workers tested positive and six died.

After the suit was filed, Tyson suspended any accused managers without pay and hired a team led by former U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to investigate the suit’s claims.

U.S. officials say they’re actively negotiating for additional purchases of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine after passing up a chance to lock in a contract this summer because it was still unclear how well the shots would work

Wednesday’s firings were the result of that investigation, the company said in a statement. Tyson did not name the managers or release a full investigative report.

The lawsuit identified Tom Hart as the man who organized the “cash buy-in, winner-take-all” pool.

Tyson said the firings were specifically related to the betting pool, as it has defended its other actions from March and April as the coronavirus spread through several of its facilities.

More than 307,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins data. Iowa, the 31st-most populous state, has recorded 3,350 COVID deaths, 27th-most among U.S. states.