Virus Outbreak Meat Plant Protest

A truck bearing a Weld County insignia sits outside the administrative office entrance in April at JBS USA in Greeley.

Two former contract employees at the JBS USA beef facility in Greeley have alleged that the company urged sick employees to continue working, failed to adhere to COVID-19 protocols and provided nonfunctional screening equipment.

The Greeley Tribune reports that a contract medical assistant, Sarah-Jean Buck, attested to the plant’s negligent handling of health protocols. Specifically, she said she sent a visibly sick employee home, only to be told she should have kept the individual on the job.

“[I]f someone came through screening and reported having a cough, Cecilia [a supervisor] would ask if they slept with the window open,” Buck wrote in an affidavit, according to The Greeley Tribune. “If the employee said yes, then Cecilia would say that was causing the cough and they were fine to go to work.”

A spokesperson for JBS defended the rigor of its COVID-19 surveillance and testing to the paper, and dismissed the allegations as coming from “a disgruntled temporary employee.”

A second former employee, Erica Villegas, claimed separately that JBS did a poor job about communicating to non-English-speaking employees, and that management "appeared to have little or no idea as to what they were supposed to do — and took very little time to instruct us or tell us what was going on.”

Buck also described to The Greeley Tribune how her temperature-taking device failed to function, and how other protocols were relaxed. She asserted plainly that the company "incentivized workers to lie about symptoms so they would work while sick."

The site was home to an outbreak that resulted in half a dozen worker deaths and 300 infections earlier in the pandemic. 

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