Tyson Foods (OSHA)

OBJECTIVE: Seek closure to an ongoing six-year legal and political battle with the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Department of Labor regarding numerous citations/civil penalties as a result of two fatalities in July 1999 at the company’s operations in Robards, Ky. Primary objectives were a final settlement and a reduction in the proposed civil penalties from almost $500,000 in proposed citations in excess of 100 and elimination of the four proposed “willful violations.”

STRATEGY: Scheduled settlement talks with the decision makers within the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet including the secretary, commissioner of labor, DOL general counsel and others to discuss ways of ending the almost six-year legal and political battle. It’s estimated by the client that they spent in excess of $4,000,000 in legal fees from the inception of the dispute with the state and the Commonwealth spending over $1,000,000 during the same period.

We also met privately with the Governor’s top staff members as well as lawmakers with jurisdiction over the Cabinet’s budget, regulations and legislation in an effort to keep them informed of the status and to solicit their assistance in motivating the DOL to settle.

Pushed for the nonrenewal of the DOL’s outside law firms’ state contract by highlighting how much the taxpayers had spent when the client had settled with the families of the deceased employees over three years prior.

Reminded Cabinet and DOL officials on a regular basis of the risk for the state in that the hearing officer could rule against them as easily as he could for them in the pending suits. We also made it crystal clear that Tyson would spend whatever amount necessary on legal fees to avoid ever having to agree to the willful citations. Tyson could afford to continue the legal battle…could the Commonwealth?


RESULTS: In July 2005, Tyson Foods, Inc., reached a global settlement with the Department of Labor ending the six-year legal and political battle. Civil penalties were reduced from almost $500,000 to $149,515 plus the cost of a safety mechanic at the plant at a cost of $35,000. The number of citations was reduced by over 50% and all willful citations were eliminated. In addition, the outside labor law firm’s contract was not renewed.

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