The Delta variant is wreaking havoc on return-to-work initiatives. Nevertheless, employers inevitably will require most employees to return to office, whether or not with hybrid schedules, and will require that they be vaccinated. This may happen in fits and starts, and not always with the willing participation of employees, many of whom enjoy working from home, or may be unable to be vaccinated. Lawyers representing management therefore need to understand how best to advise clients on how to respond to requests from employees to be exempted from these policies.

Let’s review the basics. In its recently amended Technical Assistance Guidance, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) made clear that an employer may require COVID-19 vaccines for employees, and exclude those with COVID-19 or symptoms associated with COVID-19 from the workplace, because their presence would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others.