DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that Tyson Foods can’t claim it was operating under the direction of the federal government when it tried to keep its processing plants open as the coronavirus spread rapidly within them during the early days of the pandemic.

A lawsuit filed by several families of four workers who died after contracting COVID-19 while working at Tyson’s pork processing plant in Waterloo will be heard in state court.

The families allege that Tyson’s actions contributed to the deaths.

Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said the company is disappointed in the court ruling, but he defended the steps Tyson took to keep workers safe during the pandemic.