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February 15, 2023

Appellate Court Rejects Employee’s “I Don’t Recall Signing” Defense to Arbitration Agreement

California employees have taken to challenging the enforceability of employment arbitration agreements by claiming that they do not recall signing it, even when the agreement contains their signature and, therefore, should not be required to arbitrate their claims.  In Iyere v. Wise Auto Group, a California Court of Appeal recently shot down this argument, holding that employee’s declaration that “I don’t recall” signing the arbitration agreement was insufficient to challenge the authenticity of their handwritten signatures.  The Court reversed the trial court’s denial of the employer’s motion to compel arbitration on this ground and rejected the trial court’s holding that the arbitration agreements at issue were unconscionable. 

This decision involved the employee’s handwritten signature. However, in an era where many companies are moving to electronic signatures on arbitration agreements, employers must ensure there are proper safeguards in place to be able to prove the employee electronically signed the document.  California courts have tossed out arbitration agreements in cases where employers were not able to adequately explain how their electronic signature technology works and how they can ensure the e-signature attached to the arbitration agreement is actually that of the employee who allegedly signed it. 

The Iyere decision may help employers seeking to enforce arbitration agreements when employees attempt to dodge their handwritten signed agreement to arbitrate by submitting a declaration that merely states, “I do not recall signing.” Employers using e-signature technology should ensure that they can prove to the satisfaction of a reviewing court that their technology cannot be compromised and that a document bearing an employee’s e-signature was in fact “signed” by that employee.