Authentication of Disputed Signature by Description of Information Governance Policy

“Navigating Social Media Discovery: Steps Counsel Can Take to Address Mass Deletion of Social Media History”
August 9, 2022
Is There a Duty to “’Fess Up?”
August 15, 2022

In Mason v. Domino’s Pizza, LLC,  2021 WL 4820520, at *1 (D. Md. Oct. 15, 2021), the Court held that defendant had properly authenticated a disputed signature on an arbitration agreement.  The signature was authenticated by testimony of a human resources officer as to defendant’s routine business practices.

Mr. Mason was employed by Domino’s Pizza and sued for alleged discrimination.  Domino’s, represented by my friend Lee B. Rauch, Esq., moved to compel arbitration.  Mr. Mason asserted that he had not signed the arbitration agreement.

It was “undisputed that Mr. Mason completed online forms as part of the onboarding process for his position with Domino’s.”  Domino’s described a “multi-step, online process to sign the arbitration agreement and other onboarding documents.

The welcome screen on the website provided links to the arbitration agreement and the other forms new hires needed to sign…. (screenshot). When a new hire clicked the link to the arbitration agreement, the employee would see instructions on how to review the arbitration agreement, a cover letter from the Vice President of Compensation, Benefits and Shared Services explaining Domino’s mandatory arbitration program, a flyer about arbitration, and the arbitration agreement itself…. The cover letter stated that employees were required to sign the arbitration agreement to begin or continue employment…. After an employee reviewed the arbitration agreement, a message would inform them that a signature was required, and they would have to click “accept” and type their name and the last four digits of their Social Security number to e-sign the agreement.

However, Mr. Mason asserted that he did not sign the arbitration agreement. The Court explained: “The crux of the parties’ dispute is whether Mr. Mason agreed to and is bound by the arbitration agreement. Certainly there must be an agreement between the parties to arbitrate before arbitration can be compelled.”

Mr. Mason did not persuade the Court:

Domino’s offers considerable evidence that Mr. Mason digitally signed, agreed to, and is bound by the arbitration agreement after having the opportunity to review it. Domino’s filed an affidavit explaining its onboarding procedures for all new hires, including Mr. Mason, and describing the forms on its website, the use of e-signatures, and the process for reviewing and signing the arbitration agreement…. Domino’s has shown that employees first must consent to use a digital signature for the onboarding documents, then must select a password for the website, and then must use their name and last four digits of their Social Security number to e-sign documents…. This information was verified by human resources…. Domino’s explained that new employees were instructed to review the arbitration agreement…. Before they could access the signature page for the agreement, employees viewed a cover letter that stated they had to sign the arbitration agreement to continue employment, a flyer about arbitration, and the arbitration agreement itself…. The employees then clicked an “accept” button to enter the data necessary to sign the agreement…. Domino’s also filed screenshots of the buttons that employees had to click to sign the arbitration agreement…. [emphasis added].

The Court concluded that Domino’s had properly authenticated the signature on the arbitration agreement:

Domino’s has met the requirements of Rule 901. It submitted an affidavit of Michael Chodzko, a Specialist in Domino’s Corporate Operations Support in its Human Resources Department who has personal knowledge of “Domino’s routine business practices pertaining to the maintenance and security of Domino’s computer system and employee access to the TMSC website, a self-service Website maintained by Domino’s for internal use.”…. Mr. Chodzko details the online onboarding process required for Mr. Mason and all new Domino’s employees, including the e-signature process. Mr. Chodzko describes how all new employees must review and sign the arbitration agreement…. He explains that Domino’s maintains electronic records of the e-signatures of its employees and did so in Mr. Mason’s case. He attaches to his affidavit several documents reflecting Mr. Mason’s e-signatures, including his digital signature of the Arbitration Agreement, which he swears were maintained by Domino’s in the usual course of business…..

After considering the affidavits and the documents submitted by Mr. Mason and Domino’s, the Court finds there is no genuine dispute of material fact that Mr. Mason reviewed, signed, and agreed to bound by the arbitration agreement. Although he claims in his affidavit he never signed the agreement and never read a document referring to the agreement during his online onboarding process, Domino’s has submitted overwhelming evidence to the contrary. [emphasis added].

It appears that Domino’s had a solid information governance policy and that was sufficient to authenticate the signature and the employee’s denial did not create a factual dispute sufficient to defeat the motion to compel arbitration.