Faced with a lawsuit and numerous coronavirus infections, Smithfield Foods is voluntarily closing two Illinois plants indefinitely.
The company announced Friday it would suspend operations at its Monmouth facility beginning next week and until further notice after a "small portion" of its 1,700 employees tested positive for COVID-19.
The Monmouth plant represents approximately three percent of U.S. fresh pork supplies and also produces bacon. Employees will be paid during the closure, according to a company spokesperson.
The news comes one day after Smithfield was accused in a lawsuit of failing to adequately protect workers at a Missouri plant who have been forced to work "shoulder to shoulder" during the coronavirus pandemic. A company representative denied the allegations and said "the health and safety of our employees is our top priority at all times."
On Saturday, Barbara Jeffers, the executive director of the Kane County Health Department, confirmed Smithfield Foods in St. Charles received an order from the department to close its facility immediately.
In a statement, the company says it will suspend its operations in St. Charles on a rolling basis beginning Saturday. The St. Charles dry sausage facility employs approximately 325 team members who will be paid during the temporary closure.