A lawsuit filed against a Smithfield Foods plant claims it has created a public nuisance by failing to protect workers from coronavirus infection.
Workers at a Smithfield Foods pork plant in Milan, Mo., say that for years they have endured repetitive stress injuries on the meat processing line — and urinary tract infections because they had so few bathroom breaks.
But as the coronavirus pandemic has emerged, workers say they have encountered another health complication: reluctance to cover their mouths while coughing or to clean their faces after sneezing, because this can cause them to miss a piece of meat as it goes by, creating a risk of disciplinary action.
The claims appear in a complaint filed Thursday in federal court by an anonymous Smithfield worker and the Rural Community Workers Alliance, a local advocacy group whose leadership council includes several other Smithfield workers.
The complaint also seeks to test a novel legal question: whether health hazards at the plant present a public nuisance.