PITTSBURGH – November 23, 2021 – Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney recently successfully defended client, Williams Companies and their Mandatory Arbitration Program before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. Jaime Tuite, shareholder in the Labor & Employment section and head of the firm’s Pittsburgh office handled this matter with assistance from Vanessa Wilson, associate in the Labor & Employment section.
On November 1, 2021, Tuite successfully argued for the enforceability of the Arbitration Agreement central to the implementation of the Williams Companies Mandatory Arbitration Program before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. This case was the first test of the Williams Arbitration Agreement in West Virginia state court, and it involved a matter of first impression, requesting the Court to grant the extraordinary remedy of writ of prohibition. On November 19, 2021, the Court granted the writ of prohibition, compelling arbitration.
Williams began advising employees in October 2019 about the implementation of the Mandatory Arbitration Program. The Arbitration Agreement was mailed, emailed, and posted on the Williams internal website three months in advance of the effective date. Williams did not require employees to sign an arbitration agreement. Rather, the method of acceptance identified in the Arbitration Agreement was continued employment. Plaintiff remained employed with Williams for approximately one year following the effective date of the Mandatory Arbitration Program. Plaintiff challenged the enforceability of his agreement to arbitrate on the basis that he did not recall ever receiving it and had not signed it.
The briefing and questioning during argument addressed the enforceability of an unsigned arbitration agreement under West Virginia law. Tuite raised the delegation provision during the course of oral argument, which was not challenged by Plaintiff at the trial court level. By bringing this issue to the Court’s attention during argument, Tuite provided the Court with the opportunity to rule in favor of the Williams Companies by relying upon a settled principle of law. This matter will now proceed to arbitration instead of continuing at the trial court level.