What Starbucks' New COVID Mandates Mean For Employees

In the face of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus sweeping across the country, companies are faced with the prospect of implementing new or intensified COVID-19 precautions for the safety of their staff and customers. One of the companies making changes is the world's largest coffee chain: Starbucks. According to Reuters, last week the Seattle-based chain announced its intention to require all of its workers — or "partners," as the company calls its employees — to be fully vaccinated with an approved COVID-19 vaccine or to receive weekly COVID testing.

The corporation's new vaccine mandate was announced by Starbucks' COO, John Culver via a letter, which was sent to all of the coffee juggernaut's U.S. employees on December 27. In the letter, Culver informed employees that they had until January 10 to disclose their vaccination status to the company, in compliance with the updated requirements.

"I recognize that partners have a wide spectrum of views on vaccinations, much like the rest of the country," the COO wrote to the coffee chain's workforce (via ABC News). "My responsibility, and that of every leader, is to do whatever we can to help keep you safe and create the safest work environment possible."

All 100-plus employee companies might soon have to implement the same requirements

This major nationwide change comes in response to new ordinances by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which announced in November that companies with more than 100 employees would be required to institute a vaccine or testing requirement across their workforce by February 9, 2022.

According to USA Today, attempts to torpedo the restriction in court were unsuccessful after the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld it. But it is slated to be considered by the Supreme Court later this week. While it's unclear whether Starbucks will continue to enforce the vaccine or testing requirement should OSHA's ordinance be struck down by the justices, in the meantime, the company's 228,000 U.S. employees should be prepared to either disclose their vaccine status or face weekly OSHA-approved testing moving forward.

In order to be considered fully vaccinated, employees must have received either two shots of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Employees who opt out of the vaccine requirement must receive a weekly test at a clinic, testing site, or pharmacy, and will have to cover the cost of testing themselves.