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Former Tyson supervisors take company to court over unpaid bonuses

Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier - 11/26/2022

Nov. 25—WATERLOO — A Tyson Fresh Meats manager accused of arranging a COVID-19 illness office pool and encouraging interpreters to mislead workers about the coronavirus pandemic is taking the meatpacking company to court for allegedly not paying his bonus when he was fired.

Thomas Hart, who was manager at the Waterloo plant at the onset of the 2020 coronavirus outbreak, filed a suit seeking $125,000 in unpaid annual incentive plan compensation in Black Hawk County District Court in October.

Other supervisory employees — who, like Hart, are named as defendants in wrongful death suits brought by the estates of Tyson workers who died of COVID — are also crying foul for missing bonuses.

In court records, Tyson said it withheld bonuses — in at least in some cases — because of allegations workers took part in the office pool.

According to Hart's suit, he was hired by the company in 1994, and the AIP bonuses were included in addition to his bi-weekly salary.

On Nov. 18, 2020, Hart was told he would be getting $125,000 in AIP pay. He was suspended the following day, and discharged from the company on Dec. 15, 2020, without receiving the AIP funds, the suit states.

His attorneys, Nathaniel R. Boulton and Marlon Mormann of Des Moines, allege the company withheld his wages in violation of Iowa statutes.

Hart is also named as a defendant in suits over the COVID outbreak at Tyson.

The suits allege he organized a cash buy-in, winner-take-all betting pool for supervisors and managers to wager how many employees would test positive for COVID-19. This while public officials were calling for the plant to be closed for safety reasons.

Among other things, Hart and others allegedly directed the interpreters to tell non-English speaking employees that "everything is fine," that there was no outbreak at the plant, and to tell them there were "no confirmed cases" and the health department had "cleared" the plant of COVID, according to the wrongful death suits.

Another former Tyson manager who is taking the company to court over unpaid AIP bonuses is Bret Tapken. He had worked at the plant since 1994 and was utility room superintendent. He is seeking $14,500 in withheld bonus pay.

His suit was filed almost a year ago and is currently undergoing a motion for summary judgment where attorneys for Tyson are countering that he didn't receive a bonus because of "egregious misconduct."

The company alleges Tapken "was involved in wagering related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tyson concluded his performance did not warrant a bonus and his employment was terminated."

Hart didn't receive his bonus for the same reasons, Tyson officials disclosed in court records arguing against Tapken's bonus.

In written court statement, Tapken said he didn't wager on how many Tyson team members get sick.

Other former Tyson employees taking the company to court over AIP pay include: Hamdija Beganovic, operations manager; Cody Brustkern, a maintenance manager; and John Casey, assistant plant engineer.


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