Davis Wright Tremaine is requiring attorneys and staff to be vaccinated for Covid-19 before returning to the office, a step other Big Law firms may follow as the medicines become more widely available.
The firm will offer paid time off to receive and recover from the vaccine, and it will try to provide the shots in the office if able.
The policy will “safeguard the health of our employees and their families, our clients and visitors, and our communities,” Managing Partner Jeff Gray said in a statement. “We need everyone’s help to be able to get back to more normalized operations as quickly as we can.”
Davis Wright appears to be the first Big Law firm to implement a vaccine requirement, said Brad Hildebrandt, a law firm management consultant. Other firms “are in a wait and see mode,” he said.
More Big Law firms will require vaccines for returning to work now that the Food and Drug Administration has authorized several of them, said Peter Zeughauser, a legal strategist and consultant. Before that, only about half of firms would likely do more than strongly recommend vaccinations, he said.
Employers have wrestled with whether to impose a vaccine requirement, said Ashley P. Cuttino, a shareholder at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart.
They legally can do so, based on December guidance by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, she said. Employers must include reasonable accommodations for religion or disability, said Cuttino, who advises law firms and professional services on Covid-19 related employment matters.
Davis Wright’s policy includes a carveout for those who can’t be vaccinated “due to a disability, advice of a medical provider, or religious beliefs.”