A Foster Farms poultry processing plant involved in a coronavirus outbreak that killed nine people was slapped with a preliminary injunction forcing the company to continue providing its workers with protection from COVID-19.
The Superior Court of California in Merced County granted a United Farm Workers (UFW) request to upgrade a Dec. 23 restraining order requiring the company to provide COVID protections to a preliminary injunction.
The Jan. 29 preliminary injunction requires Foster Farms to “maintain numerous safety guidelines to protect workers from COVID as the case proceeds,” according to a UFW news release regarding an ongoing lawsuit over the outbreak.
UFW and individual workers filed the lawsuit in December after nine workers at the plant died from COVID-19 and more than 400 others became infected with the virus.
According to an Associated Press story, under the restraining order and the preliminary injunction, Foster Farms is required to:
- supply face masks to workers and make sure they wear them or face shields where social distancing isn’t possible
- provide temperature and health screenings for visitors and workers before they can enter the plant
- install physical dividers in break rooms and on production lines where social distancing is difficult, and
- inform all employees in English, Spanish and Punjabi of testing requirements, outbreaks and safety training.
Foster Farms issued a statement to the Associated Press in December saying it was working with Merced County health officials and already had some of the measures contained in the restraining order in place, “including testing and mask-wearing requirements.”
The company said it has “performed more than 25,000 virus tests” at the facility since September, and that its positivity rate among workers is “far below the rate for Merced County as a whole.”