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Starbucks will offer ‘catastrophe pay’ to baristas exposed to the coronavirus

A Starbucks location in Santa Ana, California.

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Starbucks said Wednesday that it is offering “catastrophe pay” to U.S. baristas who have been exposed to the coronavirus.

The global coffee chain, which implemented similar measures in China, will pay employees for up to 14 days if they have been diagnosed with, exposed to or in close contact with someone with the coronavirus. Workers who may be considered higher risk because of underlying health conditions are also eligible for catastrophe pay with a doctor’s note.

The Seattle-based company is the latest corporation to adjust its policies as the number of U.S. cases of the virus climbs. Darden Restaurants extended paid sick time to all hourly employees on Monday, and Walmart has instituted an emergency sick leave policy.

“I want you to know that here at Starbucks, you should never have to choose between work and taking care of yourself,” Rossann Williams, president of Starbucks’ U.S. company-operated business and Canada, said in a message to employees.

If Starbucks employees are still unable to return to work after two weeks, additional pay may be used for up to 26 weeks.

Employees who are showing symptoms but have not been in contact with someone diagnosed with the virus are being encouraged for stay home for 24 hours. Catastrophe pay will cover any of their scheduled shifts over a three-day period to make sure they can get tested. 

Starbucks closed a downtown Seattle location on Thursday after one of its baristas was diagnosed with the virus. The cafe reopened Monday morning. Thirteen additional employees are self-quarantined.

As part of its precautionary measures, Starbucks has stopped accepting reusable mugs. Baristas have been instructed on how to use gloves and how to best grind whole bean coffee brought in by customers. 

Since early 2018, Starbucks baristas have been able to accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.

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