AWC Blog

Is Tyson Foods Destroying Workers’ Comp?

tyson foods

Over the past 25 years, Tyson Foods has been working to redefine workers’ compensation insurance, often to the detriment of their own employees.

In the 1980s and 90s, when repetitive occupational injuries, like carpal tunnel syndrome, became more widely known and understood and more injured workers began filing workers’ comp claims for those injuries, insurance costs skyrocketed. Most companies were paying $6 for every $100 of payroll, more than three times what businesses pay today. Something had to be done to lower costs for businesses.

Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest packer of chicken, beef, and pork, stepped in and began lobbying different governors around the country for changes. They were largely successful. Costs were lowered and rules changed to benefit businesses, making it harder for some claims to be approved and lowering the amount of benefits to be paid. Over the years, even as prices have largely fallen, more changes have been allowed across the country that have proven detrimental to the workers meant to be protected by workers’ comp – especially in states like Arkansas, Iowa, Texas, and some others

With 113,000 employees in 400 locations, accidents and injuries are common for Tyson Foods. Many of their employees’ jobs are necessarily repetitive and working with heavy machinery comes at a risk. Carpal tunnel and common strains are just a part of the accidents and injuries their employees may have to face. Fingers and hands have been lost to the blades of the machinery needed to process meat. The company, understandably, has high workers’ comp costs that must be addressed.

Tyson Foods’ answer to the problem was to self-insure. The company pays nearly all of their claims itself. Employees see a Tyson-employed nurse. Their claims are handled by Tyson adjusters. Even the medical team that reviews claims and takes a look at patients are hand-picked by Tyson. Along the way, some of their employees have been denied legitimate claims.

Tyson Foods continues to influence legislation and lawmakers in the states where it operates, seeking to work with legislators who will change policy and tweak current legislation to make it more friendly for their business operations. Many states have used the Arkansas workers compensation law, written with the help of lobbyists from Tyson Foods, as a model for workers compensation reform.

While the need to control costs and mitigate false claims is understandable and definitely needed, part of the purpose of workers’ compensation is to take care of the employees who work for your business, making sure they are taken care of in the event of an unfortunate accident. It may be that the pendulum has swung too far to one side if legitimate claims are being denied all in the name of cost-cutting and bottom lines.

Not every company is as big as Tyson Foods. Most cannot afford to self insure, even if you qualify for the option in your state. Finding quality workers’ compensation at a reasonable cost is an absolute necessity. When you need a quote for a new policy or have questions about your existing one, contact us today.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Custom USB.

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