Sanford Heisler to Require Vaccinations for Returning Lawyers

Posted April 15th, 2021.

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By Chris Opfer

Litigation boutique Sanford Heisler Sharp will require Covid-19 vaccinations for its roughly 100 attorneys and staff returning to offices in the coming months.

“People will be expected to be vaccinated, unless they have a religious or health reason,” David Sanford, the firm’s chairman, told Bloomberg Law. “If they don’t, they will be expected to seek other employment.”

Sanford Heisler, which has gained attention in recent years for representing lawyers in pay and other discrimination suits against their firms, has six offices, including in New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Those offices will largely reopen in June, and employees will be expected to start coming in at least part-time by early September, Sanford said.

The firm is among a relatively small number to announce they’ll require vaccines for employees. Davis Wright Tremaine, a 500-lawyer firm with offices across the country, is also requiring the medicine.

Several of the country’s largest law firms, including Mayer Brown, Fox Rothschild, Nixon Peabody, and Faegre Drinker Biddle, have said they will “encourage” lawyers and staff to return to work vaccinated.

“We are strongly encouraging our people to schedule vaccines as soon as they are eligible,” Nixon Peabody CEO and Managing Partner Stephen Zubiago told Bloomberg Law in an emailed statement.

Nixon Peabody is tentatively asking employees to return to their offices July 6, ahead of the late summer target eyed by other firms.

‘Vaccines Work’

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said employers can require Covid-19 vaccines as long as they make exceptions on religious and medical grounds. But legislatures in a handful of states, including Ohio, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, are considering bills that would ban vaccine mandates.

Sanford’s firm has an office in Nashville, Tenn.

“It is clear to us, and it should be clear to everyone, that the vaccines work against the current strains of the virus and at least some of the variants,” Sanford said. “As long as that remains true, our expectation is that people will get vaccinated.”

Companies in a wide range of white collar settings are steering clear of requiring vaccines, said Emily Pidot, an employment lawyer for Paul Hastings in New York. That’s in part because they are used to employees working remotely during the pandemic.

“There is still a level of acceptance for remote work,” Pidot said.

“When you have a mandatory policy, you have to be willing to enforce the mandatory policy,” she said. “For people who don’t wish to get the vaccine but are not legally entitled to an accommodation, employers may not want to push it.”

Paul Hastings, which is among the 30 largest U.S. firms by revenue, declined to say when it will ask employees to return to offices and whether they will need to be vaccinated.

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