RCWA & Jane Doe v. Smithfield

RCWA & Jane Doe v. Smithfield

With food chain workers being deemed “essential,” but allowed to fall ill, workers at Smithfield’s pork processing plant in Milan, Missouri are taking legal action to secure basic protective equipment and protocol changes that will stop the spread of COVID-19 in the plant and the surrounding community.

Read the New York Times’ article about the case.

Their action filed today is the first lawsuit seeking to secure injunctive relief to protect frontline workers from the coronavirus. The plaintiffs in the suit are the local nonprofit workers’ rights group Rural Community Workers Alliance and an anonymous worker who is a veteran of the facility’s “cut floor” who fears contracting the disease in the plant and spreading it in the community. The complaint filed by Public Justice, Towards Justice and the Heartland Center for Jobs and Freedom alleges Smithfield’s “current operations constitute a public nuisance because they unreasonably interfere with the common public right to public health” and because they are a breach of Smithfield’s duty to provide its workers with a reasonably safe workplace. The suit does not seek money damages, but asks the Court to force Smithfield to comply with CDC guidelines, state public health orders, and the guidance of health care professionals.

In this complaint, the plaintiffs demand the following relief immediately:

  1. Providing sufficient personal protective equipment, including clean masks;
  2. Creating and implementing a social distancing plan for the plant that will allow the workers to stay 6 feet apart to the extent possible, including on the line;
  3. Providing breaks so workers can wash their hands and providing handwashing stations for them to use;
  4. Providing tissues;
  5. Creating and implementing a protocol to clean surfaces;
  6. Altering leave policies to allow workers showing COVID-19 symptoms to stay home without any form of punishment to their wages or future prospects; and
  7. Developing and implementing a plan to test workers showing symptoms and perform contact tracing for those they have been near who could have been exposed.

 

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