Starbucks drops employee vaccine mandate after Supreme Court ruling

by mcardinal

Matt Bush, FISM News


In a memo sent to employees on Tuesday, Starbucks suspended its plan to require baristas and other employees to either be vaccinated or to receive weekly COVID testing. The Starbucks decision follows similar decisions by large companies like GE based on the recent Supreme Court ruling.

The Supreme Court voted 6-3 to invalidate the “vaccine or test” regulation for large businesses instituted by the Biden administration, declaring that “the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had exceeded its authority.” This blocked the mandate that companies with more than 100 employees require vaccination or enforce weekly COVID tests for their workforce.

Prior to the ruling, Starbucks, along with most other large companies, was preparing its employees to comply with the regulation.

When the Supreme Court ruled the mandate unconstitutional, those same companies had a decision to make. The ruling did not ban companies from requiring their employees to either be vaccinated or tested, but rather placed the decision directly at the feet of every individual company. 

The Biden administration, in fact, continued to urge companies to enforce their own vaccination policies. As FISM previously reported, the president called on business leaders to “immediately join those who have already stepped up — including one third of Fortune 100 companies — and institute vaccination requirements to protect their workers, customers, and communities.”

According to CNBC, Starbucks has 220,000 employees and approximately 90% of those employees had already disclosed their vaccination status with the majority of them being fully vaccinated. In the memo sent to employees on Tuesday COO John Culver said, “We respect the court’s ruling and will comply,” giving medical autonomy to any employee who had not already complied.

The reversal is noteworthy due to both the company’s size and the market that they serve. In what has become a largely partisan issue, the majority of Republicans have been opposed to vaccine mandates of any kind, while the majority of Democrats have supported. Starbucks, meanwhile, has typically shown support to more liberal ideologies.

GE also permanently suspended their vaccine and testing requirement after the Supreme Court decision. While they have encouraged their 174,000 employees to get the jab, they are no longer requiring proof of vaccination after the Dec. 16 court ruling ordering a stay on the vaccine mandate.

There are still many larger companies that are holding firm to their vaccination requirements.

Carhartt in particular has gotten a lot of press for their decision to move forward with the mandate, due to branding themselves as a “blue collar” company. According to the AP, the company told employees last Friday that the Supreme Court ruling would not change their internal policy. 

“Carhartt fully understands and respects the varying opinions on this topic, and we are aware some of our associates do not support this policy. However, we stand behind our decision because we believe vaccines are necessary to protect our workforce,” said a statement from the company.

United Airlines, Tyson Foods, Facebook, Uber, United Airlines, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Google, and American Express are just a few of the other large companies who are moving forward with plans to comply with the now non-legally binding mandate.

While the Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the federal worker vaccine mandate, companies not owned or run by the government are exempt. Meanwhile the Supreme Court has ruled that the mandate for healthcare workers can move forward. Prior to the court striking down the private-sector mandate, 84 million workers would have been affected by the requirement with the federal government largely footing the bill.

The 6-3 Supreme Court ruling was voted along ideological lines with the 6 conservative justices in the majority and the 3 liberal judges in dissent.