Alexandra Harwin, New York Partner

Alexandra Harwin

New York Partner

My Story

Alexandra Harwin is a Partner at Sanford Heisler Sharp and Executive Chair of the firm’s Discrimination and Harassment Practice Group.

Since joining Sanford Heisler Sharp, Alexandra has been repeatedly recognized in the legal community as one of the nation’s top employment lawyers. Among her professional accolades, Alexandra was recognized in 2021 as one of Bloomberg Law’s 40 Under 40, an honor bestowed on just 40 lawyers across the U.S. and across all sectors of legal practice. Previously, Alexandra was one of just five employment attorneys nationwide named a Rising Star by Law360 in 2017. Alexandra has also been recognized by Super Lawyers as a Rising Star, by Benchmark Litigation as a Labor & Employment Star – Northeast, and by Lawdragon as one of the 500 Leading Plaintiff Employment & Civil Rights Lawyers.

At Sanford Heisler Sharp, Alexandra’s practice has focused on representing clients in discrimination, harassment, and retaliation settlements and lawsuits, as well as litigating major class actions against employers who mismanage 401(k) plans in violation of ERISA. Alexandra is known for her legal acumen, strategic thinking, pragmatism, and outstanding results, especially in contentious, complex disputes. Alexandra’s representations have included:

  • Litigating and negotiating a settlement on behalf of a class of female pharmaceutical employees at a Novartis subsidiary, culminating in a $8 million Court-approved settlement
  • Litigating and negotiating a settlement on behalf of a class of women victimized by disgraced Rabbi Bernard Freundel, culminating in a $14.25 million Court-approved settlement
  • Negotiating settlements totaling in excess of $30 million for law firm partners, associates, and counsel and in-house attorneys with claims of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation
  • Litigating through trial a lawsuit against Columbia University brought by female faculty member Enrichetta Ravina, which resulted in a $1.25 million jury verdict
  • Beating motions to dismiss and litigating proposed class actions against UnitedHealth and Allstate alleging mismanagement of 401(k) investments affecting thousands of employees
  • Negotiating multimillion dollar settlements for university students and employees who have been subjected to sexual harassment
  • Negotiating settlement packages for clients in an array of industries, including pharmaceuticals, finance, and manufacturing, with favorable terms that include reinstatement for employee who was terminated after maternity leave, promotion for female lawyer who was discriminatorily denied partnership, and multiyear severances in unlawful termination cases
  • Negotiating private, out-of-court settlements for female employees who have been underpaid based on gender, at times obtaining multiples of the lost salary

Alexandra received her law degree from the Yale Law School and her undergraduate degree summa cum laude from Harvard, where she was the top ranked student in her graduating class. While at Yale, Alexandra was Managing Editor of the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, survey design manager for Yale Law Women’s Top Ten Family-Friendly Law Firms Survey, and a member of the Yale Supreme Court Advocacy Clinic. As an undergraduate at Harvard, she studied gender-based employment discrimination through the disciplines of history and economics, and she received numerous awards for her undergraduate thesis exploring feminist attitudes towards women’s unpaid housework in the 1960s through the 1970s.

Alexandra’s focus on anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation law reflects her longstanding commitment to civil rights and gender equality. After graduating from Harvard, she worked at the Center for American Progress, performing progressive economic policy research for Gene Sperling, who served as Director of the National Economic Council for Presidents Clinton and Obama.

A member of the New York, New Jersey, District of Columbia, and Maryland bars, Alexandra has also been outspoken in the legal community as a thought leader and advocate for greater protections for employees. She has published opinion pieces and analyses in the New York Law Journal advocating for an expansion of discrimination laws to cover partners, independent contractors, and others who may not always be considered “employees”; in Law360 discussing the pitfalls of parental leave policies that differentiate between primary and secondary caregivers; in Law360 discussing prospects for obtaining class certification in employment cases ranging from pay discrimination to sexual harassment; in the New York Times advocating for more predictable rules for alimony; and in Slate on numerous legal topics.

Alexandra has also been a CLE presenter on cutting edge employment topics, including novel pay equity statutes and recent legislation restricting the imposition of non-disclosure agreements on victims of harassment and discrimination. Alexandra has presented on CLE panels that have included “Gender and Racial Equity in an Evolving Corporate Environment” at Legal Week, “Current Ethical Issues For In-House Counsel & Those Who Advise Them: Litigation Perspectives” before the New York City Bar Association, and “Aggressive Bargaining: The Legal and Ethical Boundaries of ‘Me Too’-era Settlements” at Frankfurt Kurnit’s Annual Litigation Ethics Summit.

When Alexandra is not lawyering, she enjoys talking politics, reading economics articles, getting better at knitting, and spending time with her two kids.


  • J.D., Yale Law School
    • Managing Editor, Yale Journal of Law & Feminism
  • A.B., Harvard University, summa cum laude

Bar Admissions

  • Maryland, 2011
  • District of Columbia, 2012
  • New Jersey, 2015
  • New York, 2015

Court Admissions

  • U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York


“Alexandra Harwin is a powerhouse in successfully advocating for her clients – even against the most powerful of organizations. She is incredibly smart and knowledgeable, and a masterful, unflinching negotiator. My case turned out to be a long and arduous process, yet I always felt heard, respected, and supported. She skillfully balanced this compassion with reality, strategic options, and focus. I am enormously grateful for my experience with Ali. In addition to the positive, restorative outcome for me personally, there was at least some change for the better within my organization as well. A true counselor, wise and dedicated, who is making a difference in this world.” 
– University Administrator and Former Client

Creativity and passion for reaching solutions.

“Alexandra Harwin was one of my lawyers in a lawsuit against a senior professor and Columbia University, and over the course of over four years I have witnessed her intellectual acuity and creativity, perseverance, strong moral compass, and humanity. Ms. Harwin started on my case as an associate, and she quickly became the lead person for the case. Her knowledge of the law, deep interest in and dedication to me as the client, and her ability to dive deep into a topic and quickly understand the inner-workings of different fields and industries definitely set her apart. In addition, her passion for solving the issues her clients face and reaching equitable solutions are leading elements of her practice. I could not recommend her more strongly.” 
– Former Client Enrichetta Ravina

Relentless advocacy and amazing outcome.

Alexandra Harwin is the best advocate one could possibly imagine. Rigorous, tirelessly committed, and above all brilliant, Ms. Harwin is the lawyer you would want on your side. Fierce and pragmatic, working with Ms. Harwin has redefined for me what responsibility means. Her legal representation has always been not only of the highest caliber but also characterized by unending compassion and intelligence. In the twists and turns of the legal process, Ali is a shining light.
– University Student and Former Client

An attorney I could trust.

“I called this team in total confusion and shock, hours after being fired while on maternity leave. It was the worst day of my career. I didn’t know what to do, think, or expect. Ali [Harwin] and her team patiently walked with me on the journey to understand my situation, the legal context, and to clearly communicate my experiences. At every turn, she supported me. This discrimination dispute wasn’t just about me – it was about fair treatment for women and families. At first I was hesitant to stand my ground, but I’m so incredibly glad that I did, and I’m forever thankful that I found an attorney I could trust to help me through this.” 
– Sales Executive and Former Client

The only attorney that I would even consider.

“I first met Ali Harwin when we were on opposing sides of a gender discrimination case against my corporate client. At that time, I never dreamed that I would one day be asking her to represent me in connection with my own gender discrimination claims against my large law firm. My experience with Ali as opposing counsel was that she was incredibly smart and diligent, a truly excellent attorney, and had a strength of character that I admired. When I decided to pursue my discrimination claims against my firm, Ali was the only attorney that I would even consider to represent me. My experience with Ali as a client was that, not only is she an excellent attorney and incredibly smart and diligent, she also is warm, sincere, and compassionate. Ali took the time to listen and understand what my goals were in pursuing my discrimination claims against my firm. Ali’s legal strategy and advice was top notch. One of the things I most appreciated about Ali was that she took the time to explain the law and her proposed strategy and did not try to steer me in a particular direction. Rather, she made a point to ensure that I was comfortable with every decision that we made. Ali helped me to obtain a very favorable settlement from my firm following a hard fought mediation. In my nearly 15 years as a litigator, I have participated in my fair share of mediations. In my experience, Ali is particularly skilled at mediation. The settlement Ali helped me obtain will allow me to provide for my family while I transition out of Biglaw. But even more important, Ali gave me the opportunity to take back my dignity and exit my firm from a position of strength.” 
– BigLaw Lawyer and Former Client

The best of the best.

“When I think of the best of the best, the person that comes to mind is Ali Harwin. In my case, we were against one of the biggest corporate law firms, ostensibly retained for being the most aggressive. The other side was publicly boasting about crushing us. Until they met Ali. Ali is a fantastic, efficient, and very hands-on lawyer. Right from the start, when Ali started handling my case, her meticulousness helped sharpen the case. Ali was thoroughly prepared, well researched and always moving the ball forward. The end result was a complete victory for us, and very satisfying from a monetary perspective as well. I could not have asked for a better attorney, and I highly recommend her. I would call her the Muhammed “Ali” of the legal world.” 
– Sales Executive and Former Employee

Focused and steady.

“Ali Harwin represented me in a case of wrongful termination from my employer. This employer was particularly difficult and used a very combative attorney. Ali stayed focused and steady throughout the case. She gave me insightful advice and was always responsive despite her heavy case load. She strategized the best way to resolve the case and brought it to a timely and successful close. She is one of the best attorneys I’ve worked with and I’d recommend her without hesitation.”
– Pharmaceutical Executive

I was unbelievably impressed.

“Alexandra Harwin expertly helped me navigate and win an extremely difficult and painful wrongful dismissal dispute. I was unbelievably impressed with her level of legal acumen, strategic negotiating prowess, transparency and authenticity. What I think sets Alexandra apart even further is her compassionate and empathic approach to her clients, providing much needed comfort and reassurance at times and thoughtful sage advice at critical junctures.”
– Pharmaceutical Executive

An extremely favorable settlement.

“As a lawyer, my job is to problem-solve and advocate fiercely for my clients. Despite my professional experience, I felt unable to protect my own reputation, livelihood, and health when I was being discriminated against by my large law firm. That changed once Ali Harwin was representing me. I quickly learned that Ali is a hardworking attorney with a sharp legal mind, but also a kind, empathetic, and honest individual. Ali was able to obtain an extremely favorable settlement for me at mediation, thus allowing me to end one of the most difficult chapters of my life with dignity. I will be forever grateful to Ali and her team at Sanford Heisler Sharp!” 
– Law Firm Attorney and Former Client

She fought hard to get me what I deserved.

“Ali Harwin represented me in my action against my employer while I was still employed there. I had suffered almost five years of harassment and marginalization and, frankly, I had a very deep fear of retaliation from my manager. I felt absolutely powerless to defend myself. David Sanford and Ali took action to immediately legally protect me while I was in a very vulnerable position. Ali then guided me through the entire process, striking the right balance between providing transparency regarding what was happening and protecting me from the very negative aspects of the firm’s rebuttals. She held me up when I felt no strength to continue and fought hard to get me what I deserved. She is a successful balance of tenacity, integrity and a soft touch in her advocacy. I was very fortunate to have Ali on my side and I highly recommend her to those considering retaining Sanford Heisler Sharp!” 
– Financial Services Professional

UnitedHealth Certified ERISA Class Action

This class action accuses the fiduciaries of UnitedHealth’s 401(k) plan of violating their fiduciary duties under ERISA by keeping one of the worst-performing target date investment options in the entire market, the Wells Fargo Target Fund Suite, as the plan’s default investment for over a decade.

Robert De Niro Lawsuit

The lawsuit alleges that De Niro and Canal Productions subjected their longtime employee, Graham Chase Robinson, to a hostile work environment, including unwelcome physical contact, sexually-charged comments, verbal abuse, and sex-stereotyping.

Allstate ERISA Class Action

Sanford Heisler Sharp is currently evaluating whether Allstate mismanaged its 401(k) plan.

UnitedHealth Group ERISA Class Complaint

ERISA Company Name: UnitedHealth Group Sanford Heisler Sharp filed a class complaint in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota alleging that the UnitedHealth Group breaches basic fiduciary duties under ERISA and violates its employees’ trust by mismanaging their retirement funds. The complaint alleges UnitedHealth Group failed to remove from its employee […]

Rabbi Freundel Voyeurism Class Action

Early in 2015, Freundel pleaded guilty in a criminal proceeding before the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, to numerous counts of illicitly filming women as they used the “mikvah”- a Jewish ritual bath frequently used by married Orthodox women as well as by women undergoing conversion to Judaism.

Transamerica ERISA Class Action

The complaint alleges the company invests employees’ retirement savings in multiple funds that consistently underperform their investment benchmarks and other similar collective investment funds.

Norton Rose Fulbright/Chadbourne & Parke LLP Gender Discrimination Class Action – $3.1 Million Settlement

According to Plaintiff Kerrie Campbell, a nationally recognized trial lawyer and partner in Chadbourne’s Washington, DC office, female partners at the firm are excluded from positions of decision-making authority and receive less pay and bonuses even when they out-perform their male counterparts. There is only a one-tier partnership, with every partner characterized as an equity partner.

Ian Jack Miller v. Zara USA, Inc. et al.

In 2015, Sanford Heisler Sharp filed a $40 million lawsuit against Zara USA, Inc., the flagship brand for the largest fashion retailer in the world, Inditex Group. The lawsuit alleges that Zara discriminated against and then fired its in-house counsel, Ian Jack Miller, because he is Jewish, American, and gay. The case seeks damages for creating a hostile work environment, pay discrimination, and unlawful and retaliatory termination based on Mr. Miller’s nationality, religion, and sexual orientation.

Fabio Silva v. Giorgio Armani Corp., Et. Al.

According to his complaint, during his tenure at Giorgio Armani Corporation, the company’s Chief Financial Officer informed General Counsel Fabio Silva he did not trust Mexicans, and thereafter subjected Mr. Silva to increased scrutiny and discriminatory treatment. When General Counsel Silva reported this treatment to Chief Operations Officer, Giorgio Fornari, and Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Lucinda Rosso, General Counsel Silva was berated for complaining. General Counsel Silva was then denied a raise for reporting the discrimination.

Columbia University Sexual Harassment Case – $1.25 Million Jury Verdict

The complaint provides extensive details regarding how the senior leadership of Columbia – including the Provost of the University and the Dean of Columbia Business School – allowed one of Columbia’s senior, tenured professors to sexually harass and obstruct the work of a female junior faculty member, plaintiff Enrichetta Ravina.

My Story