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Hastings, NE Meat Processing Plant Facing Federal Lawsuit Over COVID Safety

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Hastings, NE Meat Processing Plant Facing Federal Lawsuit Over COVID Safety

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A new lawsuit against Noah’s Ark Beef Processing Plant in Hastings, Nebraska is just one of many in a string of injury lawsuits against employers—particularly in the meat-processing industry—who allegedly failed to implement and enforce adequate COVID safety protocols for workers.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include several former employees and even a pediatric doctor responsible for treating children of the meatpacking workers as well as the workers themselves. The lawsuit alleges that the plant’s failure to implement basic safety practices such as social distancing, clean masks, adequate sick leave, and timely testing constitutes a public nuisance, employer negligence, and even violates the Families First Coronavirus Response Act by unnecessarily putting so many workers and subsequently their families at risk.

Conditions in most meatpacking plants are ideal for the spread of contagions.

If there is one thing the slew of recent lawsuits and complaints against meatpacking facilities makes clear, the conditions for meatpacking workers are far from ideal for preventing the spread of a contagious virus like COVID-19. The workers in many of these facilities work in extremely close quarters, side-by-side on an indoor processing line without adequate means to social distance from each other. When employees are forced to work within inches of each other—especially when they are not given new masks to replace old, soiled masks with—it is not remotely surprising that a virus like COVID passes quickly around the facility and to the family members of the workers when it is brought home.

Without adequate sick leave and clear sick leave policies, the virus is likely to continue spreading.

It is important for infected individuals to stay home, regardless of whether or not they are symptomatic. Isolation until non-contagious has proven to be an effective means of controlling the virus and preventing unnecessary outbreaks. However, this lawsuit alleges that not only does Noah’s Ark fail to provide enough sick leave to pay for workers during a full recovery period from the virus, but they even encourage workers to return while still contagious or to ignore symptoms and continue working.

One way this meat processing facility like others could have prevented not only these allegations but more importantly danger to their workers is to be extremely clear when communicating their company’s COVID sick leave policy. Most companies already have a sick leave policy in place, but in the middle of a pandemic, these policies can shed little light on what a sick employee is expected to do to recover, prevent spread, and return to work as soon as possible when safe.

This lawsuit is seeking an injunction to enforce four specific safety measures, as well as the cost of any attorney fees on behalf of the plaintiffs.

As lawsuits go, the damages in this one are relatively straightforward. The plaintiffs in this lawsuit are seeking an injunction which would require Noah’s Ark Processing to enforce four specific safety measures as well as to communicate these and any other relevant safety policies to employees. The four safety measures this complaint is seeking injunctory relief for include physical distancing, face masks, sick leave, and onsite testing. According to the official complaint, these protections “...are basic and
eminently feasible. Other plants are providing them. While other protections are also desirable, these four are non-negotiable, especially at a crowded indoor workplace like Noah’s Ark.”

If you or a loved one suffered from COVID, illness, or injury due to unsafe conditions in a meatpacking facility or workplace, reach out to a workplace injury attorney to learn about your options for recovery and the possibility of an injunction to enforce better safety protocol.

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