Cargill Ltd. was hit with a class action lawsuit after a major COVID-19 outbreak at the High River beef plant in Alberta, Canada.
The plaintiffs do not include the employees, who are covered under worker compensation laws. Instead, the lawsuit was filed for hundreds of their family members and other close contacts who were infected.
Cargill is accused of failing to take reasonable precautions to protect workers and their contacts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawsuit was filed after more than 900 workers at a Cargill beef packing plant south of Calgary were infected with COVID-19. Overall, more than 1,500 cases of COVID-19 have been linked to the plant.
The plant shut down for two weeks in April after one employee died and around 350 workers were infected with COVID-19, out of around 2,200 employees at the plant.
The plant soon reopened with safety precautions — including temperature checks, physical distancing, cleaning and sanitizing — but hundreds of workers were still infected after the re-opening.
In May, a third death was linked to the outbreak. The victim was a man who worked at the plant who was hospitalized in April.
The other two deaths were a 67-year-old female employee and a 71-year-old father of another employee.
Employees have reported “elbow-to-elbow” working conditions and said the facility was simply too crowded, even with fewer workers on site, to make physical distancing effective.
Even so, the High River plant is currently running at full operation, processing about 4,500 head of cattle a day — more than 36% of Canada’s total beef-processing capacity.