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Starbucks offers catastrophe pay, may limit seating amid coronavirus concerns

Starbucks employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or exposed to the coronavirus can receive two weeks of 'catastrophe pay' to self-quarantine.

WASHINGTON — Starbucks announced Wednesday that it will pay its employees for up to two weeks to stay home if they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are exposed to the coronavirus. The company is also considering transitioning some stores in the U.S. and Canada to drive-thru only while others may limit the number of people allowed inside. 

The coffee shop chain said it is temporarily expanding “catastrophe pay” for COVID-19, according to an open letter posted on a company blog. Employees diagnosed with the virus or exposed to it are eligible for up to 14 days of catastrophe pay so they can isolate themselves at home, even if they are not showing symptoms.

Rossann Williams, president of Starbucks’ U.S. company-operated business and Canada, wrote about the catastrophe pay expansion and other company plans addressing the new virus.

If workers still cannot return after the 14-day catastrophe pay period, an additional pay replacement may be made up to 26 weeks.

"You should never have to choose between work and taking care of yourself," Williams wrote in the blog.

On Thursday, CEO Kevin Johnson said while stores in the U.S. and Canada were currently maintaining regular operations, they are prepared to modify operations. He said stores will be closed as a last resort, and those decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.  

Employees who the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have advised should take extra precautions, like those 60 and older or ones with underlying health conditions, are also eligible for up to the two weeks’ pay with a doctor’s noted recommendation. 

Starbucks is also telling employees who are showing symptoms but have not any known contact with someone with COVID-19 to stay home. Those employees can use the expanded catastrophe pay for any scheduled shifts over a three-day period.

Credit: AP
FILE- In this May 29, 2018, file photo, a barista reaches for an empty cup at a Starbucks, commonly referred to as the original Starbucks, in the Pike Place Market in Seattle.

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The company is based in Seattle, just a few miles from the city of Kirkland, where the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak has occurred. 

Starbucks has taken other steps to limit spread of the virus in its stores like pausing the use of personal cups and serving samples as well as additional cleaning and sanitizing.

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