Starbucks backtracks; will not require a COVID vaccine

Starbucks will no longer require its workers in the United States to be vaccinated against COVID-19, reversing a policy it had announced a few weeks ago.

In a memo sent to employees on Tuesday, the Seattle-based coffee giant said it was responding to the Supreme Court ruling issued last week. In a vote of six in favor and three against, the highest US court rejected the plan of the administration of President Joe Biden to require the vaccine or frequent coronavirus tests for companies with more than 100 employees.

“We respect the court’s ruling and will abide by it,” John Culver, Starbucks chief operating officer, wrote in the memo.

Starbucks backtracking is one of the most high-profile corporate actions in response to the Supreme Court ruling. Several large companies, such as Target, have not commented on their plans.

On January 3, Starbucks required all of its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by February 9, and if they were not vaccinated, they were required to undergo a weekly coronavirus test. At the time, Culver said it was the responsibility of Starbucks leadership to “do whatever we can to help keep them safe and create the safest work environment possible.”

In Tuesday’s memo, Culver said the company continues to strongly recommend vaccination and booster doses. The company also asked its employees not to wear cloth masks at work, but instead wear medical-grade ones.

Starbucks asked its employees to report their vaccination status by January 10. The company said Wednesday that 90% have reported it and that “most” are fully vaccinated. The company did not disclose the percentage of workers who are not fully inoculated.

The company employs 228,000 people in the United States.

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