A former manager with Tyson Foods is speaking out after being fired for making a bet about how many employees would contract coronavirus. He says that the bet was all in good fun and meant to improve morale in the workplace.
Former Waterloo, Iowa plant night manager Don Merschbrock told The Associated Press that he wanted to clear the seven supervisors’ names who were terminated for the bet.
“We actually worked very hard and took care of our team members well,” Merschbrock said. He claims that the bet came about after the leadership staff became overworked and tasked with keeping employees safe in the plant during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It was a group of exhausted supervisors that had worked so hard and so smart to solve many unsolvable problems,” Merschbrock explained. “It was simply something fun, kind of a morale boost for having put forth an incredible effort. There was never any malicious intent. It was never meant to disparage anyone.”
However, the company did not find it funny and announced the managers’ firing on December 16th following an investigation led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The investigation found that the managers’ actions violated the company’s values of respect and integrity. According to the company, the managers held the office pool moments after 2,800 of the plant employees underwent mass testing. The person who chose the correct percentage of positive cases within the plant was to win a $50 cash prize. Merschbrock said that he nor the other managers believed that they were doing anything wrong.
Tyson Foods is currently facing a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the families of four employees who died of COVID-19. Lawyers for the deceased estates claimed that the plant managers minimalized the virus’s severity and even encouraged employees to work while sick. The suit also claims that management did not provide workers proper protective gear that may have kept them safe while working, despite the virus ravaging across the country, especially within plant and factory jobs. By May, over 1,000 workers had tested positive.