A vast majority of workers at meat processing plants who tested positive for COVID-19 in April and May were ethnic and racial minorities, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a statistic that reflects COVID-19 data among members of the general public.
Meat processing plants have been hit hard by the pandemic, with some 16,233 cases reported at 239 facilities across 23 states in April and May. Among the 61% that provided race and ethnicity, 87% of those diagnosed with COVID-19 were minorities, including 56% Hispanic, 19% non-Hispanic Blacks, and 12% Asians. Those numbers are disproportionate to overall demographics at those plants, which were 39% white, 30% Hispanic, 25% Black, and 6% Asian.
On a national level, 55% of COVID-19 cases were among Hispanic and Black individuals despite those groups making up only 31% of the total U.S. population.
According to the CDC, long-standing systemic health and social inequities have put some members of racial and minority groups at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 or experiencing a more severe form of the virus regardless of their age. Ethnic and racial minorities also had higher rates of hospitalizations or death from COVID-19 than non-Hispanic whites.
“History shows that severe illness and death rates tend to be higher for racial and ethnic minority populations during public health emergencies than for other populations,” the CDC said. “Addressing the needs of these populations in emergencies includes improving day-to-day life and harnessing the strengths of these groups.”
Workers who see negligence in following safety protocols, or who are made to feel uncomfortable for calling out failures to follow policies may experience threats or other retaliation to encourage them to stay silent. But you don’t have to be muzzled. In fact, it is important not only for your safety, but that of your co-workers, to call out wrongdoing. If you think you have been a victim of workplace discrimination, retaliation, or a hostile workplace, or if you have been exposed to an unsafe workplace, it is important to seek the immediate advice of an employment lawyer. Contact Larry Golston, Lauren Miles or Leon Hampton, lawyers in our firm’s Consumer Fraud & Commercial Litigation Section.