Starbucks readies its workforce for Biden’s vaccine-or-test mandate

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A Starbucks employee wears a facial covering while working in Dallas, Texas.

Ronald Martinez | Getty Images

Starbucks is readying its workforce to comply with the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test Covid requirements for private businesses.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is mandating that private companies with at least 100 employees enforce weekly Covid testing and masking for unvaccinated workers as part of a broader plan to encourage vaccinations and slow viral spread. The mandate has faced court challenges from Republican-led states and business groups, and the Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments on the matter Friday.

Starbucks, meanwhile, is asking its U.S. employees to disclose their vaccination status by Jan. 10. If they aren’t fully vaccinated by Feb. 9, when enforcement of the federal mandate is set to begin, workers will have to present a negative Covid-19 test no more than seven days before their next shift and once a week going forward.

Unvaccinated workers will have to procure their own tests, and at-home tests will not be accepted.

If the enforcement date changes as a result of the ongoing legal battle over the mandate, Starbucks said it will update its timeline for workers.

The coffee chain also said it may later update its policies if the pandemic worsens. Restaurants’ and retailers’ staffing woes have intensified in recent weeks as the omicron variant spreads, pushing businesses to encourage vaccinations, routine testing and masking for employees.

“If vaccination rates rise and community spread slows, we will adapt accordingly. But if things get worse, we may have to consider additional measures,” John Culver, chief operating officer and North American group president at Starbucks, wrote in a Dec. 27 letter to U.S. baristas.

The coffee chain also updated its policy dealing with how long baristas should isolate after contracting Covid-19, following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new guidance. Workers who are experiencing symptoms but have tested negative can return to work before the five-day isolation period is up, provided their symptoms have improved.

Baristas can receive self-isolation pay for up to five days of missed shifts twice during the company’s fiscal second quarter.

Shares of Starbucks fell more than 1% in afternoon trading, despite being named a top stock pick for 2022 by BTIG.

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