A lawsuit has been filed by a one-time Guardian Auto Glass employee who agreed a non-competition agreement with the company before accepting employment with Glass America. Robert Staples signed an "Invention, Discovery, 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 more uncomfortable with certain practices of the respondent which he said to be immoral and doubtless unlawful."
Staples later accepted employment 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 lawyer requesting "enforcement of the provisions of the non-competition agreement" and warning of imminent action in the courts in Michigan.
"The desist letter has had an intended chilling effect on the petitioner in that the petitioner does not wish to risk a large damage award for violating the terms and conditions 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 claims 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's no effort to determine whether the proscribed 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 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 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 favor of dismissal of a declaratory action is, where, as here, a petitioner preemptively files for declaratory relief replying to a specific threat of a later-filed state-court action on the merits. Mr. Staples clearly filed the opening action that's now before this court in Virginia Circuit Court on April 4, 2012 in an effort to avoid the applying of Michigan law, to which he contractually agreed in Nov 2010, after receiving notice that he was going to be sued in Michigan through Guardian's April 2, 2012 desist 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 an initial 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 requires 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 requesting that the Virginia court dismiss Staples' complaint because the Michigan court already has jurisdiction over the issue.
Tags: Guardian Glass, Glass America