Court Battles

Smithfield Foods sued over Missouri plant conditions

Pork processor Smithfield Foods is being sued over allegations that it failed to protect workers at a Missouri plant during the coronavirus pandemic, NBC reported.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Missouri federal court, accuses the company of forcing workers to work “shoulder to shoulder” and providing inadequate personal protective equipment.

It also claims Smithfield refused to give workers time to wash their hands, discouraged sick leave and created a “public nuisance.” It says workers were disciplined for covering their mouths while coughing or sneezing because they could miss meat on the processing line.

Smithfield Foods told The Hill that the company has a policy of not commenting on pending litigation, but said the claims are unfounded.

“The health and safety of our employees is our top priority at all times. The allegations contained in the complaint are without factual or legal merit and include claims previously made against the company that have been investigated and determined to be unfounded,” said Keira Lombardo, executive vice president of corporate affairs and compliance for Smithfield Foods. “We look forward to aggressively defending the company in court.”

The plant in Milan, Mo., remains open, but Smithfield closed another Missouri plant in Martin City indefinitely on April 16 after a small number of employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Put simply, workers, their family members, and many others who live in Milan and in the broader community may die — all because Smithfield refused to change its practices in the face of this pandemic,” the Rural Community Workers Alliance, a Missouri-based worker advocacy group, said in the complaint, according to NBC. 

The group was joined in the lawsuit by an anonymous employee.

Smithfield also closed a plant in Wisconsin and South Dakota, where one worker died and 518 employees were infected by the virus.

Tags Agriculture Coronavirus Food industry Smithfield Foods Smithfield Foods
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