Starbucks has decided not to pursue a vaccine mandate after the Supreme Court blocked the Biden Administration from enforcing the requirement across the country.
Earlier in January, the coffee giant said it was following the guidelines set forth by the federal government, which stated employees at workforces of 100 or more people must either be fully vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. At the time, Starbucks said roughly 228,000 employees would need to show their vaccination status by January 10 and comply with the mandate by February 9. if an employee chose to undergo weekly testing, they would've had to cover the costs and submit results.
The federal standard affected Starbucks because it calculated employee count based on companywide numbers instead of per location.
However, on January 13, the Supreme Court decided to shoot down the vaccine mandate by a 6-3 majority. The court described it as an abnormal "exercise of federal power" and that it was a "significant encroachment into the lives—and health—of a vast number of employees."
In response, COO John Culver said in a message to employees that Starbucks will "respect the Court's ruling and will comply," and that it will continue to follow local requirements and encourage workers to get vaccinated. Culver also noted that more than 90 percent of workers have disclosed their status, and that most of them are fully vaccinated.
"I want to emphasize that we continue to believe strongly in the spirit and intent of the mandate,” Culver wrote to employees.
Many restaurants have been hesitant to move forward with their own vaccine mandate in fear of driving workers elsewhere amid a very tight labor market. However, a survey of more than 500 U.S. companies by consulting firm Willis Towers Watson found only 3 percent of employers with vaccination mandates saw a spike in resignations. Almost half of respondents believed a requirement could help with retention.
Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group began mandating vaccination for employees last fall. At the time, he acknowledged that it could be a barrier to hiring, but he also bet employees would rather enter a workforce knowing it's safe.
“The restaurant industry from the very beginning has stepped up,” Meyer said back in July. “They’ve stepped up before we had vaccinations. They stepped up in very dangerous situations all last year serving people indoors, outdoors, etc. throughout the country. And I think we have a responsibility within our industry—which is the largest aggregate employer of any industry in the country—to show America why we have always been dedicated to hygiene.”