N.Y. Bar Association creates mandatory vaccination task force

A man gets an injection of COVID-19 vaccination at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government office in Tokyo
Yoshikazu Tsuno/Pool via REUTERS
  • NYSBA's newest task force will meet on July 30 to consider recommending vaccination for all eligible adults
  • New York State Court will require unvaccinated staff to undergo regular COVID testing

(Reuters) - Nearly two weeks after Morgan Stanley's chief legal officer Eric Grossman admonished outside law firms to get back to offices, the New York State Bar Association has launched an emergency task force to look at mandatory vaccination as the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19 continues to spread.

NYSBA’s Emergency Task Force on Mandatory Vaccination and Safeguarding Public Health will consider whether vaccinations should be made mandatory for all eligible adults as a large number of the U.S. population remains unvaccinated.

The seven-member task force includes chair Dr. Mary Beth Morrissey; New York-Presbyterian Hospital senior counsel Kathleen Burke; Bond, Schoeneck & King’s health law group members Hermes Fernandez and Candace Gomez; One Brooklyn Health System associate general counsel Lisa Hayes; NYU Grossman School of Medicine assistant professor and attorney Brendan Parent and Olshan Frome Wolosky partner Michael Passarella.

"It is well established that rights are not absolute and public health authorities have the legal authority to mandate a vaccine if there is a significant threat to the public’s health,” Morrissey, task force chair and public health law attorney, said in a statement.

The Delta variant has raised red flags for corporations and law firms planning to return to offices without requiring workers to be vaccinated. Apple last week postponed its return-to-office plans, while some law firms are still debating whether to push back their return dates.

The Department of Justice on Tuesday said that federal law doesn't stop businesses or agencies from requiring employees to be vaccinated after the Department of Veterans Affairs created its mandate.

Many law firms have set September return dates for lawyers and staff. Clifford Chance and Cooley are requiring workers to be vaccinated before heading back to their desks, although most top law firms are not. Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison is currently evaluating a mask requirement during the second phase of its return-to-work plan in September, according to people familiar with the matter.

The New York State Court also on Wednesday announced plans to require judges and nonjudicial employees who have not been vaccinated to undergo regular COVID testing. The policy encourages workers to get vaccinated.

“Government has no more pressing responsibility than to protect the public’s health and safety. Those who don’t get vaccinated are not only endangering themselves, but also putting those around them at risk – including some of our most vulnerable residents who, through no fault of their own, cannot protect themselves,” NYSBA President T. Andrew Brown said in a statement.

"Our state and nation are at a dangerous tipping point. It is time to consider all possible options to protect the largest number of individuals and communities against this highly contagious and fast-moving virus,” Brown said.

NYSBA's emergency COVID vaccination task force will hold its first meeting on July 30 with a follow-up meeting on Aug. 2.

Read more:

Skadden to lawyers and staff: Get vaccinated or get tested to come back to work

Cooley keeps office return optional for 2021, eyeing hybrid future

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Arriana McLymore is a New York-based reporter covering e-commerce, online marketplaces, alternative revenue streams for retailers and in-store innovation. She previously reported on telecoms and the business of law.