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FIA-13-0058 - In the Matter of Hanford Atomic Metals Trades Council

On October 29, 2013, the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) issued a decision denying an appeal (Appeal) from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) determination issued by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Information Resources (OIR). The Hanford Atomic Metals Trades Council (Appellant), sought categories of records concerning communications between DOE employees and DOE-contractor employees at the DOE’s Hanford facility regarding collective bargaining, desired changes in wages, terms and conditions of employment, potential strikes, or closures. In its July 31, 2013, response (Response), OIR identified 33 documents of which it withheld portions in 28 of the documents pursuant to Exemption 5. In its Response, OIR cited the deliberative process and attorney-client privileges to justify the withholdings under Exemption 5. After reviewing the documents, OHA found that the information withheld under the deliberative process privilege consisted of opinions and assessments regarding the status of the negotiations, general economic issues regarding any labor agreement resulting from the negotiations, and discussions regarding options in responding to inquiries about the negotiations. Consequently, given the predecisional nature of this material, OHA found that this material was properly withheld pursuant to Exemption 5’s deliberative process privilege. OHA also found that the information withheld under the attorney-client privilege was properly withheld because the information consisted of legal opinions and advice rendered by DOE attorneys regarding proposed responses to inquiries about the negotiations. Because OHA found that OIR properly applied Exemption 5’s deliberative process and attorney-client privileges to the Exemption 5 withheld material, the Appeal was denied.