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Starbucks Drops Vaccine Mandate In Wake Of Supreme Court Ruling

The coffee chain will now encourage, but not demand, that employees get the vaccine.

Do you want a N95 mask with that venti macchiato?

Starbucks  (SBUX) - Get Starbucks Corporation Report has announced that it will no longer require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine or submit to weekly testing.

This decision follows the Supreme Court's recent ruling to block the Biden administrations’ The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’ requirement for employers with more than 100 workers to require their employees to get a vaccine or submit to weekly testings. 

The Biden administration’s requirement would have taken the decision making out of the hands of large companies. 

With the requirement now voided, it’s up to companies to decide their safety policies. Large companies like Citigroup and Carhartt will continue to mandate that their employees get vaccinated, while other employers like Starbucks have taken a different stance.

Starbucks To Urge Vaccines, Not Require Them

On Jan. 3, Starbucks announced it would require all employees to be vaccinated by Feb. 9 or face a weekly Covid test requirement. The company has nearly 9,000 stores in the United States, and about 200,000 employees.

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“We respect the court’s ruling,” said John Culver, Starbucks' chief operating officer, in a company memo announcing the change. Culver went onto thank “the more than 90 percent of partners who have already disclosed their vaccination status,” as well as those who have already been vaccinated. 

He also said the company will continue to encourage workers to get vaccinated and boosted, and will continue to provide benefits such as self-isolation pay and two hours of paid time off for getting the shots.

“I want to emphasize that we continue to believe strongly in the spirit and intent of the mandate,” Culver wrote in the memo, according to the New York Times.

Why Did Starbucks Drop The Mandate?

Starbucks could continue to mandate that all their employees get vaccinated or submit to shots, so why didn’t they? Perhaps with “the vast majority” of employees already vaccinated, according to Culver, it didn’t seem worth the hassle.

One possible reason that Starbucks might have dropped their mandate is that like many companies these days, the coffee franchise is having a difficult time finding and retaining employees. Starbucks is no exception to the ongoing labor shortage that has hit grocery stores, chain restaurants and other businesses, and Starbucks locations have had to cut hours due to a lack of employees on hand. Someone’s got to mix that frappuccino, after all. 

By dropping the vaccinate mandate, is Starbucks indicating that it is willing to hire employees who are vaccine hesitant? And would such a move alienate employees who are fully vaccinated and boosted, but worried about catching the highly contagious omicron variant? If so, could this move backfire for Starbucks by prompting further staff exodus? 

It’s too soon to say how this move will play out, but keep it all in mind the next time you are in the mood for a Pumpkin Spice fix.