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Tyson suspending Waterloo plant supervisors named in wrongful death lawsuit

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UPDATE: Tyson says the Waterloo plant is still operating, despite some reports that the plant shutdown Thursday afternoon. A company spokesperson says they allowed time between shifts to hold a meeting outside the plant with employees.

Tyson says President & CEO Dean Banks has been at the facility throughout the day talking with employees about the actions the company is taking.

ORIGINAL STORY: WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) -- Tyson Foods, Inc. is suspending several supervisors of the company's pork plant in Waterloo that are named in a recently amended wrongful death lawsuit, the company announced in a statement Thursday afternoon.

Plant Manager Tom Hart, Safety Lead Bret Tapken, as well as Cody Brustkern and John Casey, who hold "upper-level management positions" at the Tyson Waterloo Plant have all been suspended without pay.

The lawsuit alleges 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.

Casey is alleged to have explicitly directed supervisors to ignore symptoms of COVID-19 while referring to the virus as the "glorified flu" and told workers not to worry about it because "it's not a big deal" and "everyone is going to get it." The lawsuit also alleges on one occasion, Casey intercepted a sick supervisor who was on his way to be tested and ordered him to get back to work, saying "we all have symptoms - you have a job to do."

In its statement, the company says it has retained the law firm Covington & Burling LLP to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations. Tyson says that investigation will be led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

The full Thursday statement from Tyson is below:

“We are extremely upset about the accusations involving some of the leadership at our Waterloo plant. Tyson Foods is a family company with 139,000 team members and these allegations do not represent who we are,  or our Core Values and Team Behaviors. We expect every team member at Tyson Foods to operate with the utmost integrity and care in everything we do. We have suspended, without pay, the individuals allegedly involved and have retained the law firm Covington & Burling LLP to conduct an independent investigation led by former Attorney General Eric Holder. If these claims are confirmed, we’ll take all measures necessary to root out and remove this disturbing behavior from our company. Our top priority is and remains the health and safety of our team members. We’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars to transform our U.S. facilities, including the Waterloo plant, with protective measures, from walk-through temperature scanners and workstation dividers to social distance monitors and always-on testing.”

Tyson Foods President & CEO Dean Banks

In a previous statement sent to KWWL on Wednesday evening, the company said, "Our top priority is the health and safety of our workers and we’ve implemented a host of protective measures at Waterloo and our other facilities that meet or exceed CDC and OSHA guidance for preventing COVID-19."

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