Starbucks Ends COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate After Supreme Court Ruling

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
January 19, 2022 Updated: January 19, 2022

Starbucks Corp. has ended its COVID-19 vaccine mandate following a Supreme Court ruling that found the Biden administration’s attempt to force workers to get a vaccine or wear a mask and be tested weekly was an overstep of its authority.

“We respect the court’s ruling and will comply,” Starbucks Chief Operating Officer John Culver wrote in a memorandum to workers.

In a 6–3 ruling handed down on Jan. 13, the nation’s top court stated that the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration likely didn’t have the authority to issue a vaccine mandate, which was set to apply to all businesses with 100 or more workers. While the administration argued that the Occupational Safety and Health Act enabled such a mandate, the court’s majority ruled that the act doesn’t “plainly authorize” the vaccination requirements.

“The Act empowers the Secretary to set workplace safety standards, not broad public health measures. Confirming the point, the Act’s provisions typically speak to hazards that employees face at work. And no provision of the Act addresses public health more generally, which falls outside of OSHA’s sphere of expertise,” the majority opinion reads.

Following the decision, which blocked the mandate, some companies dropped vaccination requirements, but others have kept them in place, including Starbucks until this week.

Starbucks had said on Jan. 3 that it would comply with the mandate by forcing employees to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or to get tested weekly for the disease.

“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,” Culver wrote in a letter to workers at the time.

In the new memo, the company said more than 90 percent of its workers already have disclosed their vaccination status, with a vast majority of them being fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated means that a person has received two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines or a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Culver also wrote in the memo that Starbucks strongly encourages vaccinations and boosters, as well as the disclosure of vaccination status. Starbucks has about 220,000 employees in the United States.

General Electric Co. is among companies that have suspended their vaccination mandates after the Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration rule, while Citigroup and workwear maker Carhartt are businesses that have kept the mandate in place.

Allen Zhong and Reuters contributed to this report.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.