May 08, 2020
The family of the employee from Northeast Philly who died of coronavirus-related complications while working at a Montgomery County meat processing plant is suing the former employer.
Enock Benjamin, 70, worked at the JBS Meat Packing plant in Souderton. He was a union steward and Haitian immigrant. Benjamin died of respiratory failure caused by COVID-19 on April 3, the Inquirer reported Thursday.
Benjamin was one of 119 cases of coronavirus reported at the processing plant, according to NBC Philadelphia. Prior to the suit, the Souderton facility had been closed for cleaning and sanitizing for the virus for several weeks beginning March 27, according to the New York Post.
JBS promised increased protections for employees when the plant reopened, including providing masks, conducting temperature checks and more. Although the Souderton plant has reopened, it is unclear if all of these promises have been kept.
The family is now suing the meat processing company and its affiliates for wrongful death and negligence, according to documents filed in Philadelphia court Thursday. Benjamin is survived by his son, daughter, and wife.
The suit alleges that the company failed to protect workers from infection by neglecting to provide masks, having employees work in tight quarters and increasing production during periods of public "panic buying."
Meat-processing facilities throughout the U.S. have been impacted by coronavirus outbreaks, but on the whole, have remained open as "essential businesses."
President Donald Trump's invocation of the Defense Production Act in April, and a recent executive order requiring the continued operations at meat plants, have kept meat processing plants open throughout the public health crisis.