People wear protective face masks outside Starbucks in Union Square in New York.
Noam Galai | Getty Images
The decision comes after the Supreme Court’s ruling that the Biden administration overstepped by mandating that large private employers had to require weekly testing for workers who weren’t fully vaccinated.
“While the [Emergency Temporary Standard] is now paused, I want to emphasize that we continue to believe strongly in the spirit and intent of the mandate,” wrote John Culver, chief operating officer and North American group president at Starbucks, in a letter Tuesday to baristas that was viewed by CNBC.
The company will still strongly encourage baristas to get inoculated and encourage disclosing their vaccination status. Culver said in the letter that more than 90% of workers already disclosed if they have been vaccinated, and the “vast majority” have been fully vaccinated. As of Sept. 27, 2020, the company employed 228,000 workers in the U.S.
Last week, General Electric said it had suspended its vaccine-or-testing mandate for its workforce.
In light of new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the efficacy of certain face masks, Starbucks told employees on Wednesday it would no longer allow baristas to wear cloth masks to work. Instead, they have to wear at least one three-ply, medical-grade mask. N95, KN95 or KF94 masks are also allowed, but the coffee giant said it wouldn’t be able to provide them to workers because of supply constraints.
And starting Thursday, Starbucks will temporarily expand its self-isolation policy to help flatten the curve. Baristas who are exposed at work, have ongoing close contact with someone who tests positive, have symptoms or have tested positive are instructed to self-isolate, regardless of vaccination status. Those workers will be eligible for Starbucks’ self-isolation pay for missed shifts.