EMPLOYERS SIGN THOSE ARBITRATION AGREEMENTS!
A recent case in the 4th District Court of Appeals has provided employers with a friendly reminder to make sure to affix a signature to company arbitration agreements, or any agreement for that matter. In Ortiz v. Nellson Nutraceutical, LLC, the failure of the employer to sign an arbitration agreement meant the difference between arbitrating versus going to trial over an employment dispute. Based on the court’s ruling, the employee was not compelled to arbitrate his case as the arbitration agreement was not mutually agreed to by virtue of the lack of the employer’s countersignature on the contract.
Here are the key facts that led both the trial court and ultimately the appellate court which upheld the lower court’s decision to find that a signature by the employer was required to be able to enforce the arbitration agreement:
- The arbitration agreement contained two signature blocks at the end of the contract, one for the employee and one for the employer. The employer’s countersignature block was left empty after the employee signed and returned the agreement to the employer.
- The final page of the agreement, just before the signature blocks, included the following sentence: "The parties understand that by signing this agreement, they give up their right to a civil trial and their right to a trial by jury."
- Both the lower and appellate courts agreed that mutual consent was lacking due to the employer’s failure to countersign a contract where both signatures were expected to complete the agreement.
- Defendant’s argument that other courts have found arbitration agreements with only an employee signature enforceable was rejected because those arbitration agreements only contemplated an employee signature (for example, there may have been only one signature block in the agreement).
The takeaway here is to verify that both employee and employer have both signed the contract where the contract language has contemplated it. If you are interested in ensuring that your arbitration agreements are up-to-date and pass legal muster or if you would like to institute arbitration agreements for your workplace, Rosasco Law Group, APC is the one to call for these and all other employment law needs.