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Tyson Foods Managers Bet On Workers Getting COVID, Lawsuit Claims

Tyson Foods managers at a plant in Iowa had a "winner-take-all betting pool on how many employees would test positive for COVID-19', an amended lawsuit has alleged.

Tyson Foods Inc.  (TSN) - Get Tyson Foods Inc. Report shares edged lower Thursday amid reports of the filing of a lawsuit that alleged managers of the company placed wagers on whether employees would contract coronavirus after being ordered back to work.

In an amended complaint to a wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of Isidro Fernandez, a Tyson Foods employee who died of COVID-19 complications earlier this year, lawyers alleged that managers at a Waterloo, Iowa facility operated by Tyson “organized a cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many employees would test positive for COVID-19."

Tyson Foods shares were marked 0.5% lower in pre-market trading Thursday to indicate an opening bell price of $63.15 each. 

Tyson Foods overhauled its work environments to help lessen the spread of coronavirus, and stepped up deep cleaning and sanitizing its facilities, especially employee break rooms in early Spring following the suspension of operations at its Columbus Junction, Iowa, pork plant due to more than two dozen cases of coronavirus involving staff at the facility.

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That followed an order from President Donald Trump that compelled Tyson, as well as meat producing rivals Smithfield Foods and Cargill, to keep their plants open in order to prevent food shortages from the coronavirus pandemic after Tyson chairman John Tyson said supply chains were 'breaking'.

"Closures threaten the continued functioning of the national meat and poultry supply chain, undermining critical infrastructure during the national emergency," the order stated.

Earlier this week, posted stronger-than-expected fourth quarter earnings thanks in part to a resurgence in beef and pork purchases from U.S. consumers as the coronavirus pandemic waned over the summer months, and said it absorbed around $540 million in coronavirus-related costs for its 2020 financial year, including those linked to plant closures, safety measures, testing and product downgrades.