Business Communications, Inc. (“BCI”) sued its former employee, Albert Banks, after the employee left BCI to work for a competitor, in part in attempt to recover costs BCI incurred in training Banks. To support its claim, BCI relied on an updated version of its employee handbook that it had sent to its employees via e-mail, which included a space for the employee’s signature, the employee’s name, the date, and a witness signature. The handbook provided that in the event an employee terminates his or her employment, he or she would be responsible for reimbursing the company for all relocation, training, and/or certification expenses incurred within the previous twelve months. However, Banks never signed the employee handbook and argued that because the handbook was unsigned, there was no agreement between the parties. The Mississippi Court of Appeals agreed, finding that “we cannot conceive why the form in the handbook would require a signature if such was not expected and necessary to advise the employee of his/her obligation to the company” and that the execution of the handbook in the space provided would represent the “meeting of the minds” of the parties. The court suggested that had the e-mail containing the updated employee handbook not include an empty signature line, it might have been found enforceable, but given the blank signature line, the document was not unenforceable.
TIP: If you include signature lines on documents sent to employees, ensure that the employees sign the documents. Without such a signature, the documents may be found to be unenforceable against those employees who did not sign the document.