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August 9, 2021

Delta Variant Has Phila. Firms Rethinking Office Returns and Vaccination Mandates

Philadelphia-area law firms are revising their previously announced policies for bringing employees back to the office as delta variant cases of the coronavirus continue on an upward trend in the state. 


Combined with attorneys’ continued issues around child care, the spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks has prompted firms to push back previously reported office reopening dates and implement vaccination mandates to work in offices.


Conrad O’Brien, a 25-lawyer firm in Philadelphia, is sticking with its Sept. 7 plan for reopening its office in a hybrid capacity. But firm leaders shifted course last week when they told employees to prove their vaccine status with a CDC card and wear masks to come into the office, Robyn Henry, the firm’s director of administration, said.


“We weren’t going in that direction earlier this summer, but we just felt like it was the best decision to ensure that everyone’s safe because we really do want to get folks back to work in some capacity,” Henry said.


Starting Sept. 7, the firm will ask employees to come in two days a week to test the efficacy of that work schedule for all of September. Right now, the test is just slated for September, but Henry said she wouldn’t be surprised if it went into October, “because it’s important to get it right.”


Henry said the response from employees to the vaccine policy has been positive, as colleagues were concerned over returning to an office with personnel of unknown vaccine status. She said the firm will consider medical requests for exemptions from the vaccine mandate on a case-by-case basis. If an employee has a physician’s note verifying a legitimate medical reason not to get the vaccine, the firm could ask them to work from home, Henry said.


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