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Samuel Amfosakyi v. Frito Lay.

November 17, 2011

SAMUEL AMFOSAKYI,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
FRITO LAY. DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Martin C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge

(Magistrate Judge Carlson)

(Chief Judge Kane)

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

This is an employment discrimination action brought by Samuel Amfosakyi against Frito Lay. (Doc. 1) In his complaint, Amfosakyi, a black male and a United States citizen of Ghanaian heritage, alleges that the defendant discriminated against him on the basis of his race and national origin when Frito Lay discharged him in 2009, acts which Amfosakyi alleges were taken in violation of Title VII of the Civil rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e-5, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 Pa.C.S. §951. (Id.)

According to Amfosakyi's complaint, from February 2005 through July 2009, Amfosakyi was employed as a packer and cooker operator by Frito Lay, when Amfosakyi was discharged for alleged dishonesty. (Id.) Amfosakyi asserts that one fellow worker who was a white male committed similar workplace infractions but was not discharged by Frito Lay. On the basis of this assertion of disparate treatment Amfosakyi brings this employment discrimination action.

The parties are currently engaged in pretrial discovery. As part of this discovery process Amfosakyi has now filed a motion for sanctions, (Doc. 23), and brief, (Doc. 24), which alleges that Frito Lay has wrongfully withheld discovery from him. As detailed in Amfosakyi's pleadings, the discovery he seeks relates to a former co-worker, George Rye. Amfosakyi alleges that Rye is caucasian and Amfosakyi's pleadings suggest that in 2006 Rye falsely claimed that Amfosakyi ran over Rye's foot while operating a piece of equipment at the Frito Lay plant. Amfosakyi asserts that Rye's misconduct in making this allegedly false claim in 2006 did not lead to his termination, and cites this episode as proof of his claim disparate treatment of workers by the defendant based upon race and national origin.

In order to support this claim, Amfosakyi has sought Rye's 2006 job attendance records from Frito Lay. Amfosakyi apparently seeks these attendance records because he believes that they will show that Rye was not at work on the day in 2006 when he alleged that Amfosakyi injured his foot, thus bolstering Amfosakyi's assertion that Rye made false claims regarding this episode. Frito Lay has responded to this request in a threefold fashion: First, Frito Lay has informed Amfosakyi and the Court that these 2006 attendance records do not exist for Rye. Second, Frito Lay has explained that its 2009 discipline of Amfosakyi was completely unrelated to this 2006 incident in which Amfosakyi was alleged to have run over Rye's foot. Indeed, Frito lay stipulates that the 2006 episode led to no discipline against any Frito Lay worker and played no part in the company's decision to discipline Amfosakyi three years later. Finally, Frito Lay has noted that Rye was, in fact, later discharged by the company for an unrelated violation of the company's rules of conduct.

Dissatisfied with this threefold response, Amfosakyi has filed the instant motion for sanctions. (Doc. 23) This motion has been fully briefed by the parties, and is now ripe for resolution. Having reviewed these pleadings, for the reasons set forth below, Amfosakyi's motion for sanctions will be denied.

II. Discussion

Several basic guiding principles inform our resolution of the instant discovery dispute. At the outset, Rule 37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs motions for sanctions, and provides that:

(c) Failure to Disclose, to Supplement an Earlier Response, or to Admit.

(1) Failure to Disclose or Supplement. If a party fails to provide information or identify a witness as required by Rule 26(a) or (e), the party is not allowed to use that information or witness to supply evidence on a motion, at a hearing, or at a trial, unless the failure was substantially justified or is harmless. In addition to or instead of this sanction, the court, on motion and after giving an opportunity to be heard:

(A) may order payment of the reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, caused by the failure;

(B) may inform the jury of the party's ...


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