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 one-time Guardian Auto Glass worker who signed a non-competition agreement with the company before accepting work 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 increasingly uncomfortable with certain practices of the respondent which he said to be unethical and doubtless unlawful."
Staples later accepted work at a Glass America location in Fairfax, Va, which is within a 100 mile radius of the Guardian location where he was employed. Staples and Glass America received a letter from Guardian's lawyer requesting "enforcement of the provisions of the non-competition agreement" and warning of imminent court action 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 huge 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, roughly four hundred miles away," reads Staples petition.
Staples says the agreement prohibited him from employment in any capacity with a competitor, even in a position like a cleaner or janitor. He claims that there is no effort to determine whether the forbidden 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 answered with a motion to dismiss the complaint stating that, "the court should, in the interest of justice, enter an order staying plaintiff's complaint for declaratory relief pending the resolution in the parallel legal proceedings before the Michigan federal district court of Mr. Staples' pending motion for a section 1404 ( a ) discretionary transfer."
Guardian's motion states that Staples filed a lawsuit on the same afternoon as Guardian's suit was filed.
"One such equitable factor that strongly mitigates in favor of dismissal of a declaratory action is, where, as here, a petitioner preemptively files for declaratory relief replying to a particular threat of a later-filed state-court action on the merits. Mr. Staples obviously filed the opening action that's now before this court in Virginia Circuit Court on April 4, 2012 in an effort to avoid the application of Michigan law, to which he contractually concluded in Nov 2010, after receiving notice that he was going to be sued in Michigan through Guardian's April 2, 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 as to why a preliminary injunction shouldn't be issued against him. Guardian claims that Staples didn't show up for that hearing and the court so 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 private information to Guardian Auto Glass.
Guardian is requesting that the Virginia court dismiss Staples' complaint because the Michigan court already has jurisdiction over the issue.
Tags: Guardian Glass, Glass America