Danuta Bembenista Panich - Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

Danuta Bembenista Panich

Listed in Best Lawyers since 2012

Danuta (“Donna”) Bembenista Panich has a varied practice advising and advocating for employers.  Since graduating at the top of her law school class in 1978, Ms. Panich has dealt with all aspects of labor and employment law.  However, since 1995, she has focused primarily on defending employers – including many of the nation’s largest companies –  in class actions, multi-plaintiff and collective actions, pattern and practice claims, and other “bet the company” matters such as investigations of catastrophic industrial accidents.   In all such matters, Ms. Panich brings to bear a calm, orderly, and strategically insightful approach.  She combines aggressive defense with civility, and excels at demystifying the most complex issues. Both within the context of complex litigation and outside litigation realms, Ms. Panich has dealt extensively with electronic discovery and litigation preparedness.  As a result of this experience, her wealth of knowledge, and her penchant for detail, when Ms. Panich left Mayer Brown to join Ogletree Deakins in 2007, she established, and has since served, as chair of Ogletree Deakins’ Record Retention and E-Discovery Practice Group.  In this role, she helps professional services firms and companies plan for litigation by developing programs for records management, electronic discovery, and legacy data remediation.Professional, bar, and trade associations, law schools, CLE providers, and employers frequently ask Ms. Panich to speak or provide training on litigation techniques, electronic discovery and records management, as well as various employment related issues such as wage-hour, harassment, diversity, and occupational safety and health.  Ms. Panich has also authored several articles on these topics, and is active, through her leadership role in the Federal Bar Association, in developing continuing legal education programs for practitioners and their clients.

Indiana University BloomingtonBA 1975Indiana University School of Law-Maurer School of Law (Bloomington)J.D. 1978
Order of the Coif (1978)The College of Labor and Employment LawyersNational Association of Professional WomenNational Advocates SocietySociety for Human Resources Management of Northwest IndianaSociety for Human Resources Management (SHRM)Working Group on Electronic Document Retention and ProductionPublic Interest Law Initiative Munster Medical Research Foundation Federal Bar AssociationFederal Bar FoundationAmerican Bar Association Illinois State Bar Association Indiana State Bar Association

Case History

Other Court Admissions
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth and Seventh Circuits
  • U.S. District Court, Central, Northern and Southern Districts of Illinois
  • U.S. District Court, Northern and Southern Districts of Indiana
  • U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan
Class and Collective Action Defense. — Ms. Panich has defended industry leaders as well as regional and local employers in a wide array of private sector industries, including telecommunications, financial services, meatpacking, aerospace, technology, transportation, chemicals, petroleum, retail and food services.   She has also represented clients in the public and not-for-profit sectors.  Ms. Panich is experienced in all aspects of strategy and defense.  She has coordinated multi-jurisdiction litigation, led defense teams, served as discovery counsel, and is often called upon to advise clients and colleagues on thorny preservation and spoliation issues.  No matter her role in a particular case, Ms. Panich is the consummate team player who never loses sight of the goal:  to mount a cost-effective, aggressive, and successful defense with the least possible disruption to client operations.
Wage Hour — Ms. Panich has defended employers against a variety of off-the-clock claims (preliminary work in call centers; donning and doffing; denial of rest and meal periods) and challenges to exempt status (administrative exemption; executive exemption; salaried status; application of partial exemption for public safety workers).  The claims have ranged from plant-wide to entire states, regions, and in a number of cases, nationwide.  Her clients include large national and regional telecommunications companies, a major international retailer, large meat processors, well-known fast food chains, and leaders within the financial services industry.  Ms. Panich has dealt with collective actions under the FLSA, class actions under state law, and hybrid actions involving a combination of the two.
EEO — Besides helping employers negotiate the shoals of federal, state, and local administrative agencies, Ms. Panich has defended major companies in significant cases such as a purported nationwide class of all women in exempt jobs in a leading international technology company alleging discrimination in pay and promotion practices; a collective action against an international chemical/plastics manufacturer challenging a large scale reduction in force under the ADEA; pattern and practice claims brought by the EEOC under the ADEA against an oil refiner challenging the company’s restructuring of its management ranks;  region-wide class claim under the ADA against a leading telecommunications company alleging failure to accommodate; Title VII class claim in the entertainment industry alleging a hostile work environment.
Records Retention and E-Discovery — Shortly after the millennium, Ms. Panich began working with e-discovery and records retention issues in the context of class litigation.  She subsequently became a core member of the then cutting edge e-discovery practice at her prior firm.  Upon joining Ogletree Deakins Law Firm in 2007, she founded Ogletree’s Records Retention and E-Discovery Practice Group.  In addition to providing litigation preparedness services to firm clients and serving as discovery counsel and advisor in varied litigation, Ms. Panich serves on the Firm’s steering committee for litigation support and was instrumental in the development and implementation of the Firm’s innovative Discovery the Ogletree Way Initiative.
Labor Relations. — Ms. Panich has appeared in numerous arbitrations on behalf of employers in the utility, steel, oil refining, electronics, and other manufacturing industries.   She has counseled companies on collective bargaining, and engaged in interest arbitration and effects bargaining.  
Occupational Safety & Health — Ms. Panich practiced for 29 years in Chicago, which is home to one of the most aggressive federal OSHA regions in the country.  Early in her career she served as lead counsel in the first ergonomics claim asserted under the General Duty clause by OSHA against the meatpacking industry.  Since then, she has served as primary liaison between OSHA and the employer in catastrophic explosions in the oil refining and utility industries.  She has defended numerous employers in death and multiple injury investigations, as well as other high profile inspections and citations in and around Chicago.  

Office Location

111 Monument Circle, Suite 4600
Indianapolis, IN 46204
United States

Practice Areas

Labor Law - Management