Starbucks Requires Staff to Get Vaccinated or Test Weekly for COVID-19

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Seattle-based coffee giant Starbucks Corp. is requiring its U.S. employees, both office and retail workers, to get fully vaccinated by Feb. 9 or test each week for the coronavirus as concerns mounts over the growing number of coronavirus cases in the nation — driven by the more contagious omicron variant.

The cafe conglomerate’s new requirement is in line with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration‘s (OSHA) vaccination mandate, which requires companies with more than 100 employees to abide by a vaccine-or-test rule. 

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“I recognize that partners have a wide spectrum of views on vaccinations, much like the rest of the country,” John Culver, Starbucks’ COO, said in a statement. “My responsibility, and that of every leader, is to do whatever we can to help keep you safe and to create the safest work environment possible. The vaccine is the best option we have, by far, when it comes to staying safe and slowing the spread of COVID-19.” 

The OSHA rule, covering 84 million workers across the U.S., went back into effect in mid-December after the agency paused its enforcement — awaiting the results of a legal battle. While the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals brought the rule back into play, the United States Supreme Court is scheduled to give the final word on the mandate on Friday.

To implement the requirement, Starbucks is asking its more than 300,000 employees to disclose their vaccination status by Monday, Jan. 10. An employee must have received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot to be considered fully vaccinated.

Those who decline to disclose their status will be considered unvaccinated, and subject to weekly testing beginning Feb. 9, according to Culver. Starbucks will not pay for employee COVID-19 tests, which can run into the hundreds of dollars for rapid tests, and employees will be responsible for taking a pharmacy, clinic or otherwise supervised COVID-19 test, ABC reported.   

Starbucks offers two uses of paid isolation time per quarter for employees who test positive, two hours of paid time off for employees to get the vaccine or booster dose and paid time off for any side effects from getting the shots. It’s unclear if the company will need to bargain with its single unionized store in Buffalo to implement the requirement there. 

Celia Young can be reached at cyoung@commercialobserver.com.