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Saensinbandit v. Alaska Airlines, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Alaska

December 15, 2019

Tyonna Saensinbandit, Plaintiff,
Alaska Airlines, Inc., Defendant.




         At docket 36 Defendant Alaska Airlines, Inc. (Defendant) filed a motion requesting sanctions against Plaintiff Tyonna Saensinbandit for admitted destruction of her Facebook account, which Defendant asserts is relevant evidence in this litigation. Plaintiff responded at docket 49, indicating that the Facebook account had been deactivated but not deleted and that Plaintiff has since provided the requested information. Defendant replied at docket 55, maintaining its request for sanctions or, alternatively, requesting that the court compel the production of additional withheld Facebook material. Plaintiff, with the court's permission, filed a sur-reply at docket 58. Both parties request attorneys' fees. Oral argument would not be of assistance to the court.


         Plaintiff was employed by Defendant as a customer service agent on June 19, 2017. Defendant terminated Plaintiff's employment on November 17, 2017. Plaintiff, who is an African American, advances several claims against Defendant alleging that her treatment as an employee and her termination were the result of racial discrimination. Prior to filing suit, Plaintiff made a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and received a right-to-sue letter.

         Plaintiff's complaint pleads numerous claims. Her complaint alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. It also set out claims for racial discrimination based on a hostile work environment, termination of her employment, disparate treatment, and retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. §§2000e, et seq. The complaint also includes a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.

         In addition to the host of federal law claims, Plaintiff's complaint includes several state law claims for discrimination based on race in violation of AS 18.80.220(a)(1), together with a claim of retaliation in violation of AS 18.80.220(a)(3). She pleads a claim of discrimination based on disability in violation of AS 18.80.220(a)(1). Plaintiff alleges a claim of retaliation based on her making a wage-and-hour complaint in violation of state law. Plaintiff's next claim alleges a violation of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing implied in her employment contract. Finally, Plaintiff advances a claim for the intentional infliction of emotional distress.


         In May of 2019 Defendant sent discovery requests to Plaintiff, including two discovery requests seeking information and documents related to Plaintiff's Facebook records. Specifically, Defendant made the following requests for production:

RFP No. 11: Please produce all emails including, but not limited to, emails from your work and personal email addresses, . . . as well as any messages, blog entries, social networking entries and profiles (including, but not limited to Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram), and similar documents maintained on any computer used by you (including, but not limited to, personal computers, laptops, iPads or other tablets, and phones) at any time between hire and the present that refer or relate to Alaska Airlines and/or any of its employees, or to any of the matters alleged in your Complaint.
RFP No. 12: Please produce your complete Facebook activity log and a complete printout of your Facebook timeline, as visible by you, from June 19, 2017 to present.

         In July, Plaintiff responded to Defendant's requests. As to the first request, she objected to the request on privacy, relevancy, and overbreadth grounds, but then presumably indicated that she did not have responsive materials.[1] As to the second request, she objected on privacy and relevancy grounds, and then provided only the first page of her Facebook page as it existed on May 30, 2019, with the last post being made on May 28, 2019.[2]

         Defendant objected to Plaintiff's responses, noting the perceived deficiencies. Plaintiff did not respond, and Defendant followed up on multiple occasions in July, August, and September to no avail. In mid-September, Plaintiff provided supplemental responses to other discovery requests, but not to the Facebook-related requests.[3]Around the closing of discovery, on October 14, 2019, Defendant deposed Plaintiff. During the deposition, Plaintiff indicated that she had deactivated her Facebook account in May, shortly after Defendant had asked for the information.[4] She stated that she had conversations with a former employee, Jo Wayne Richards, about matters related to her employment and Alaska Airlines, although she was not sure if the conversations were through Facebook or not.[5] She also indicated during her deposition that she could retrieve the missing Facebook data.[6]

         Shortly after the deposition, Defendant filed a request for sanctions based on spoilation of evidence. Defendant asserted that Plaintiff admittedly deleted her Facebook account after Defendant had made a request for such records and that ...

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