Glass America and Guardian Auto Glass in Legal Battle Over Non-Competition Agreement
Rob Houglum ZIPGlassNetwork.com Thursday, May 17, 2012
A legal action has been filed by a former Guardian Auto Glass employee who agreed a non-competition agreement with the company before accepting employment with Glass America. Robert Staples signed an "Invention, Disclosure, Confidentiality and Non-Competition Agreement" with Guardian Auto Glass in Nov of 2010.
According to Staples' petition for declaratory judgment, he "left Guardian Glass because he became increasingly uncomfortable with certain practices of the respondent which he claimed to be dishonest and probably unlawful."
Staples later accepted employment at a Glass America location in Fairfax, Va, which is inside a hundred mile radius of the Guardian location where he was employed. Staples and Glass America received a letter from Guardian's solicitor asking for "enforcement of the provisions of the non-competition agreement" and caution of imminent action in the courts in Michigan.
"The cease and refrain letter has had an intended chilling effect on the petitioner in the sense that the petitioner does not want to risk a large damage award for violating the details of the non-competition agreement and cannot afford to litigate this case in the courts of the state of Michigan, approximately 400 miles away," reads Staples petition.
Staples says the agreement prohibited him from work in any capacity with a rival, even in a position like a cleaner or janitor. He claims that there's no effort to ascertain whether the forbidden activity is the same sort of work as that done for the previous employer.
Glass America also filed a corresponding petition backing Staples' claims.
Guardian responded with a motion to dismiss the complaint stating that, "the court should, in the interests of justice, enter an order staying plaintiff's complaint for declaratory relief pending the resolution in the parallel legal action before the Michigan Fed district court of Mr. Staples' pending motion for a section 1404 ( a ) discretionary transfer."
Guardian's motion states that Staples filed a legal action on the same afternoon as Guardian's suit was filed.
"One such equitable factor that strongly lessens in favour of dismissal of a declaratory action is, where, as here, a petitioner preemptively files for declaratory relief in response to a specific threat of a later-filed state-court action on the merits. Mr. Staples clearly filed the initial action that is now before this court in Virginia Circuit Court on April four, 2012 in an attempt to avoid the appliance of Michigan law, to which he contractually concluded in November 2010, after receiving notice that he was going to be sued in Michigan through Guardian's April two, 2012 desist letter," reads Guardian's motion.
The Michigan court issued a "show cause order" that ordered Staples to show cause before the court why a preliminary injunction should not be issued against him. Guardian claims that Staples didn't show up for that hearing and the court therefore entered an injunctive decree against Staples. This decree specifies that Staples complies with the requirements listed in the non-competitive agreement, which includes returning all documents and confidential info to Guardian Auto Glass.
Guardian is demanding that the Virginia court dismiss Staples' complaint because the Michigan court already has jurisdiction over the issue.
Tags: Guardian Glass, Glass America