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Neuder v. Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

194 F.R.D. 289 (2000)

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Neuder v. Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

United States District Court for the District of Columbia

194 F.R.D. 289 (2000)

Facts

Stanley Neuder (plaintiff) worked for Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Battelle) (defendant) for nine years before the company terminated his employment. Neuder sued for wrongful termination as well as discriminatory and retaliatory conduct based on age and disability. Essentially Neuder alleged that Battelle retaliated against him for taking sick leave. Battelle countered that it terminated Neuder for failing to comply with Battelle policies, not completing daily time sheets or an ethics course, and using excessive sick leave. Battelle said its Personnel Action Review Committee (PARC) made the decision to terminate Neuder. First, Neuder’s supervisor gave him a written warning about alleged performance-related shortcomings. Next, the supervisor talked to a human-resources manager to plan appropriate action to take against Neuder, and the two asked the PARC to convene a meeting. Battelle’s senior attorney, David Maestas, attended all PARC meetings as a nonvoting member in accordance with Battelle’s bylaws. At the first meeting, the PARC decided to obtain an independent medical examination and suspend Neuder. After receiving the examination report, Battelle convened a second PARC meeting, and the human-resources manager sent a letter terminating Neuder’s employment. Battelle objected to discovery about the meetings and documents sent to Maestas on attorney-client-privilege grounds, claiming Maestas acted in a legal capacity at the meetings. However, evidence showed PARC meetings primarily served to terminate employees, not to obtain legal advice. Battelle’s policy specified that the PARC convened to approve proposed terminations, and the supervisor, the human-resources manager, and Neuder’s termination letter all said the PARC terminated Neuder. After reviewing Battelle’s privilege log and the documents it listed, the magistrate judge found only some reflected they were sent to obtain or provide legal advice. The magistrate found the remainder not privileged despite reflecting communications from the PARC meetings. Both parties asked for reconsideration of the magistrate’s discovery decisions.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Urbina, J.)

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