What constitutes a legal digital/electronic signature?

So, where I work, we require our hourly workers to submit a timesheet detailing what work they did and the days and hours they worked. We require them to sign their timesheets.

We give our employees timesheets designed with Excel, and upon request we send them the actual XLS file should they want to print them out on their own. Of course, we accept timesheets faxed over or e-mailed, provided they’re filled out properly, complete with signature.

Well, we called one of our employees because she sent over the XLS file without a signature, and in order for her to get paid, she needed to sign it. She argued that what was on the timesheet – simply her name typed in a script font – constitutes and electronic or digital signature, which is legally as valid as a handwritten signature. But still, I explained it this way: “Legal or not, our payroll department isn’t going to pay you unless you take a pen and sign your name to the document.”

But really, what actually constitutes a legal digital/electronic signature? Certainly not just typing your name on a spreadsheet; after all, how do they know it was actually she who signed the document and not someone else? Anybody can type “Jane Smith” and get away with it. (Name changed, btw.)

And I did look at the following threads but didn’t really see anything that answers my question:




So…for a signature to be legal, is it EVER considered legal just to type your name on something? I know the law varies from state to state…(Our office is in Illinois, and our HR/payroll department is in our California headquarters.)

Why do you need that policy anyway? Are you so afraid that employees are dreaming and scheming of plans to thwart the timesheet system and submit timesheets for other people or denying that they submitted a timesheet that you are afraid to trust your employees?

Don’t ask me; it’s not my policy…it’s headquarters’ policy. (And we have been burned before.)

I found this that states if you say “electronic signatures aren’t valid” then the employee can’t force you to accept an electronic signature.

She may be right. The Esign act essentially says that typing your name in the appropriate place is a valid electronic signature. I’ve no idea if that applies to your case, but it often does - it’s certainly the case for a DMCA notice for example.

A physical signature would probably have the same problem, unless your HR dept is comparing each signature against a known sample. Anyone could scribble a signature at the bottom and pretend it’s hers.

This doesn’t address the legal aspect of things, but there are some e-signature options that use encryption methods as an additional verification. While you still can’t prove that “Jane Smith” did the signing, you do know that it was done using her encryption key. That’s better in some ways than a paper signature.

Anyway… to specifically answer your last question: yes, there are cases where a typed name is considered a valid signature. Here are two examples:

The IRS considers a 5-digit PIN as an electronic substitute for a signature on tax returns. The tax preparer keeps (for a time) a signed piece of paper, but that paper is only authorizing the preparer to electronically file the return using the PIN as a signature.

The state of WA’s Secretary of State will consider a typed name to be a valid signature through their website, on documents such as forming a new corporation and for annual renewals of corporations.

I do think your response to the worker was correct. Whether the typed signature could be legally binding, they can make her follow pretty much whatever procedure they want to. It’s not legally required that she sign the time sheet at all - that requirement is purely a contractual issue between her and the company.

Don’t trust anyone- Look at all the CEO’s in trouble- --to your local convience store people- to your Government people

Don’t trust anyone ,until they can aprove trust worthley- look at some of those CEO’s, Politions- convience store people- Policemen’s- and so on–You can’t get a divorce, buy a house-- get married or borrow money from a bank without a real hand written signature- Now can you??