An employer was able to enforce an arbitration agreement without an employee’s signature and even though one of the parties in the lawsuit was also a non-signatory to the agreement.
Elizabeth Trujillo was an employee of Volt Management Corp., an employee leasing company. Through Volt, she worked as an on-site coordinator at Schneider Electric, where she performed human resources functions for employees Volt leased to Schneider.
Trujillo sued Volt and Schneider after her request for a disability accommodation was purportedly denied and she was terminated, allegedly for retaliatory reasons.
Volt filed a motion to compel arbitration. The district court granted Volt’s motion and ordered all three parties to arbitrate Trujillo’s claims because her claims against Schneider were intertwined with her claims against Volt. Trujillo appealed and the Fifth Circuit affirmed.
The Fifth Circuit rejected Trujillo’s argument that she was not required to arbitrate because she never signed an arbitration agreement. Trujillo had submitted a job application that contained an arbitration agreement, accepted her employment knowing that she was agreeing to submit her claims to arbitration, and continued working for Volt after she received Volt’s alternate dispute resolution policy in Volt’s employee handbook. Most importantly, the arbitration agreement did “not contain express language indicating that the parties intended to be bound to the arbitration agreement only if the parties signed the agreement.” There was “nothing more than a blank signature block that [spoke] to the party’s intent” and the district court therefore “did not err in holding that the arbitration agreements are valid and enforceable … without Trujillo’s signature.”
The court also rejected Trujillo’s claims that Volt failed to prevent competent evidence to establish a valid agreement to arbitrate and that the district court erred by requiring her to arbitrate her claims against Schneider, a non-signatory to the arbitration agreement. Intertwined claims estoppel, which the court had previously predicted the Texas Supreme Court would adopt if it was presented with the question, applied because Trujillo’s claims against Schneider were “‘intimately founded in and intertwined with’ Trujillo’s underlying contract with Volt.”
Trujillo v. Volt Management Corp., No. 20-50526 (5th Cir. Feb. 25, 2021).