Starbucks ends its vaccine mandate for employees in wake of Supreme Court ruling

‘We respect the court’s ruling and will comply,’ says Starbucks CEO John Culver

Nathan Place
New York
Wednesday 19 January 2022 21:09
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Jen Psaki addresses SCOTUS vaccine mandate ruling

Starbucks has revoked its Covid vaccine mandate for employees, the company says.

In a company memo, Starbucks CEO John Culver cited a recent Supreme Court decision rejecting the Biden administration’s call for all companies with over 100 employees to enforce a vaccine mandate.

“We respect the court’s ruling and will comply,” Mr Culver wrote on Tuesday.

Starbucks, which employs 228,000 Americans, unveiled its mandate less than three weeks ago. On 3 January, the company announced that all its employees must provide proof of vaccination or face weekly Covid testing.

“We strongly encourage all US partners to get fully vaccinated by Feb 9,” Mr Culver wrote then. “If you are not fully vaccinated, you can choose weekly testing starting Feb 9.”

That deadline had not even arrived yet when Starbucks dropped the requirement.

However, a spokesperson for Starbucks told The Independent that this was not a reversal, because Starbucks had not created the original policy – it had simply followed the rules set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

That OSHA policy was struck down by the Supreme Court, which ruled 6-3 last week that the mandate for private companies could not stand.

In their majority opinion, the six justices wrote that although Covid-19 was indeed a hazard faced by many employees at their workplaces, it did not fall under the legal definition of an “occupational hazard” that OSHA, the US government agency which enforces labour standards, could regulate.

“Although Covid-19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most,” reads the court’s ruling.

The Biden administration slammed the decision just minutes after it was announced.

“The Supreme Court’s decision on the OSHA mandate essentially means that in this pandemic it is up to individual employers to determine whether their workplaces will be safe for employees, and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

In his Tuesday memo, Mr Culver said Starbucks still strongly encourages its workers to receive vaccines and booster shots.

“While the ETS [OSHA’s vaccine rule] is now paused, I want to emphasize that we continue to believe strongly in the spirit and intent of the mandate,” Mr Culver wrote. “Thank you to the more than 90 percent of partners who have already disclosed their vaccination status, and to the vast majority who are now fully vaccinated.”

Not all corporations have responded to the Supreme Court decision by dropping their mandates. Carhartt, the American workwear company, reiterated its vaccine requirement this week, earning both praise and condemnation from customers.

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