An independent installer’s misclassification case against Lowe’s must be handled through arbitration, the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina Columbia Division ruled last week.
Perry Finch worked as an independent installer for the home improvement retailer for 20 years. In August 2020, he filed a lawsuit in US District Court alleging that he and fellow installers were misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees, and are “entitled to damages equivalent to Lowe’s paid time off, including vacation, holidays, sick and volunteer time and maternity and parental leave,” as well as reimbursement of expenses Lowe’s improperly charged the installers.
During his tenure working as a Lowe’s installer, Finch signed multiple new contracts. In 2014, he signed a contract that include an arbitration agreement that was much more comprehensive than ones prior, according to the court ruling.
Finch alleged Lowe’s made changes to the arbitration clause in the contract “dump[ed] [it] on” the installers after a 2014 class action settlement in California in which Lowe’s paid $6.5 million to independent contractors for causes of action almost identical to the ones brought by Finch.
Lowe’s filed a motion for the court to compel arbitration. Finch argued the arbitration agreement is unenforceable for want of consideration and because it is unconscionable. The court found there to be valid consideration to support an arbitration agreement and that Finch’s arguments against the clause as unconscionable to be lacking. Installers had ample opportunity to review the clause and the clause itself stood out visually in bold font, with large sections in app caps.
Finch also pointed to the fact that Lowes’ did not disclose the California settlement when issuing the revised contract to the South Carolina installers in his argument that the arbitration clause was unconscionable. The court concluded that while the settlement may in fact have instigated the revised arbitration clause in South Carolina, Lowe’s was under no obligation to disclose that information to the installers when presenting the contract.