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 an ex Guardian Auto Glass employee who signed a non-competition agreement with the company before accepting employment with Glass America. Robert Staples signed an "Invention, Declaration, Confidentiality and Non-Competition Agreement" with Guardian Auto Glass in November of 2010.
According to Staples' petition for declaratory judgment, he "left Guardian Glass because he became uncomfortable with certain practices of the respondent which he claimed to be dishonest and possibly unlawful."
Staples later accepted work at a Glass America location in Fairfax, Va, which is inside a 100 mile radius of the Guardian location where he was employed. Staples and Glass America got a letter from Guardian's solicitor asking for "enforcement of the provisions of the non-competition agreement" and warning of imminent court action in Michigan.
"The cease and desist letter has had an intended chilling effect on the petitioner in the sense that the petitioner does not wish to risk a massive 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 four hundred miles away," reads Staples petition.
Staples claims the agreement prohibited him from employment 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 proscribed activity is the same kind of work as that done for the former employer.
Glass America also filed a corresponding petition backing Staples' claims.
Guardian responded with a motion to dismiss the complaint saying 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 federal district court of Mr. Staples' outstanding motion for a section 1404 ( a ) discretionary transfer."
Guardian's motion states that Staples filed a court action on the same afternoon as Guardian's suit was filed.
"One such equitable factor that strongly mitigates in favour of dismissal of a declaratory action is, where, as here, a petitioner preemptively files for declaratory relief in response to a particular threat of a later-filed state-court action on the merits. Mr. Staples clearly filed the opening action that is now before this court in Virginia Circuit Court on April 4, 2012 in an attempt to avoid the applying of Michigan law, to which he contractually agreed in Nov 2010, after receiving notice that he was about to be sued in Michigan through Guardian's April two, 2012 cease and refrain 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 shouldn't be issued against him. Guardian claims that Staples did not show up for that hearing and the court thus entered an injunctive decree against Staples. This decree demands that Staples complies with the requirements listed in the non-competitive agreement, which includes returning all documents and secret information to Guardian Auto Glass.
Guardian is requesting that the Virginia court dismiss Staples' complaint as the Michigan court already has jurisdiction over the issue.
Tags: Guardian Glass, Glass America