Judge Dismisses Missouri Lawsuit Over Meat Worker Safety

O’FALLON, Mo. — A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of employees at a rural Missouri meatpacking facility, ruling that oversight of how the plant adheres to guidance aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus falls to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, not the courts.

U.S. District Judge Greg Kays issued his 24-page ruling Tuesday in favor of Smithfield Foods. A lawsuit on behalf of workers at Smithfield’s pork processing plant in Milan, Missouri, sought an injunction requiring the plant to abide by federal guidelines. The lawsuit accused Virginia-based Smithfield of not doing enough to protect workers from the coronavirus.

“Plaintiffs are naturally concerned for their health and the health of their community in these unprecedented times,” Kays wrote. “The Court takes their concern seriously. Nevertheless, the Court cannot ignore the USDA’s and OSHA’s authority over compliance … or the significant steps Smithfield has taken to reduce the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak at the Plant.”

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