The move comes ahead of President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for all large private employers. The mandate, which was introduced in 2021, has ping-ponged through the courts after businesses have objected. The mandate requires employers to ensure their employees are fully vaccinated against the virus or test weekly for the virus.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) joined many other industry and business associations in objecting to the mandate and sued the administration to block the rule from going into effect. Currently, the rule is going forward. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will not issue noncompliance violations until Jan. 10, meaning employers have less than a week to get up to snuff.
Starbucks encouraged its employees to get vaccinated, but has not made it a requirement. To comply with OSHA, Starbucks employees can opt to test weekly, but they are responsible for their own testing.
"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," Starbucks COO John Culver wrote in a memo to all employees on Dec. 27. "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."
Retailers have also made moves ahead of the vaccine requirements, including incentives for employees to get vaccinated. Kroger recently opted to end some benefits for unvaccinated employees, ending emergency paid leave for unvaccinated staff who contract COVID-19. In addition, unvaccinated employees will face an extra $50 monthly premium for health insurance benefits.