Starbucks Tells Its 228,000 U.S. Employees to Get COVID Vaccine or Face Weekly Testing

Starbucks has unveiled a new policy that will affect its 228,000 American employees.

The coffee giant is requiring that all U.S. employees disclose their vaccination status by January 10. Those who have been vaccinated will not have to undergo weekly testing. However, those who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine will be tested for the virus every week.

"This is an important step we can take to help more partners get vaccinated, limit the spread of Covid-19, and create choices that partners can own based on what's best for them," said Starbucks Chief Operating Officer John Culver in a letter sent to employees at the end of December. "If vaccination rates rise and community spread slows, we will adapt accordingly. But if things get worse, we may have to consider additional measures. For now, my hope is that we will all do our part to protect one another."

The mandate comes as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set February 9 as the new date by which all businesses with more than 100 employees must have either vaccine mandates or weekly testing policies implemented. OSHA has had a troubled start to this new policy, which resulted in multiple lawsuits. In its letter, Starbucks said it wanted to implement this policy before the federal mandate began.

Starbucks Cup
Starbucks will require weekly testing for employees who refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Above, a Starbucks coffee cup is seen inside a Starbucks Coffee shop in Washington, D.C., on April 17, 2018. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The requirement, which has faced numerous court challenges, was upheld last month by a three-judge panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court is scheduled to consider the requirement on Friday.

"I recognize that partners have a wide spectrum of views on vaccinations, much like the rest of the country," Culver said in the letter sent to employees. "My responsibility, and that of every leader, is to do whatever we can to help keep you safe and create the safest work environment possible."

Starbucks said full vaccination means two shots of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

If a Starbucks employee chooses to test weekly instead, they must pay the cost of testing themselves and get tested at a pharmacy, clinic or other testing site where someone is observing the test. Religious or medical accommodations will be considered, but to work in a store, employees must test weekly, the company said.

Employees who test positive will be able to use paid time to self-isolate. Starbucks said it is currently offering employees two instances of paid isolation time, both up to five days each.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Starbucks Worker With PPE
Starbucks employees can either receive full dosage of a COVID-19 vaccine or receive weekly testing under a new policy. Above, a Starbucks employee wears a face shield and mask as she makes a coffee in Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on May 12, 2020. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images