Swimming Pool Company’s Late Signatures Void Arbitration Pacts

March 27, 2020, 5:54 PM

The world’s largest swimming-pool supplier must litigate overtime claims brought by a group of former employees, after a Colorado federal court said it waited too long to countersign arbitration agreements.

Pool Corp. didn’t sign until 2019, two to three years after the plaintiffs had signed the pacts, more than a year after they’d left their jobs, and right around the time the lawsuit was filed, Magistrate Judge Scott T. Varholak said Thursday in recommending that the company’s motion to compel arbitration be denied.

Alec Hickerson and Edinam Moten, who worked as operations managers at Pool locations in Colorado and Michigan, allege that they were misclassified as exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime rules. They sought to represent other operations managers who worked at Pool locations in the U.S. from Aug. 5, 2016, onward.

Two more former employees who worked at Pool locations in California and Virginia have also opted into the suit.

Pool Corp., which is headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., and employs 4,500 individuals at locations nationwide, sought to enforce arbitration agreements that the plaintiffs each signed when hired.

The arbitration agreements aren’t valid, though, and accordingly aren’t enforceable, the court said. Both signatures were required for them to be effective, and Pool’s belated signatures didn’t activate the agreements.

The contract language makes it clear that both signatures were required, as it states that “by entering their signatures below” the parties agree to arbitrate claims, the court said.

Pool drafted the agreements and could have used different language, as it had in another provision, that only the employee’s signature was necessary, if that was its intention, the court noted. It also eventually signed the agreements, which suggests that it understood both signatures were required,

But the company didn’t countersign the agreements within a reasonable time period, so the parties never actually entered into them, the court said. And the fact that the plaintiffs kept working for Pool doesn’t create an implied agreement, because it wasn’t a condition of their employment.

Shavitz Law Group PA represents the proposed collective. Kelly & Walker LLC and Adams & Reese LLP represent Pool Corp.

The case is Hickerson v. Pool Corp., 2020 BL 112592, D. Colo., No. 19-cv-02229, 3/26/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kathleen Dailey at kdailey@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com

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