A local car dealership manager is demanding that AutoNation Inc. park its employee nondisclosure agreements outside New York.
John DeAngelis of Eastchester sued AutoNation of Fort Lauderdale on April 7 in federal court in White Plains.
“The agreement is unenforceable,” the lawsuit states, “inasmuch as it is offensive to a fundamental public policy of the state of New York.”
An AutoNation spokesman did not reply to an email request for comment.
AutoNation’s Land Rover dealership in Mount Kisco hired DeAngelis as general manager in 2016. Nearly two years later, he was made general manager of the Jaguar and Land Rover dealerships in Elmsford.
When he got the new position, the complaint states, AutoNation required him to sign a nondisclosure agreement or NDA – a confidentiality, no-solicitation, no-hire non-compete agreement – “as a condition of his continued employment.”
The NDA prohibited DeAngelis from selling or servicing cars for any competitor within 50 miles of the Elmsford dealership and within 10 miles of any AutoNation dealership in the United States, for a year after leaving the company.
Any dispute would have to be litigated in either a state or federal court in Broward County, Florida, and the terms would have to be interpreted under Florida law.
DeAngelis resigned from his job last November, according to the complaint, and officially left the AutoNation job on Dec. 2.
The Premier Collection’s Subaru and Volvo dealerships in Elmsford hired him Feb. 3 as director of fixed operations.
Two weeks later, an AutoNation lawyer threatened to sue DeAngelis, according to the complaint, if he did not comply with the NDA. On March 23, a Florida law firm notified him that it was authorized to commence a lawsuit and demanded that he cease and desist.
DeAngelis claims that the Premier Collection job had nothing to do with sales and the dealership did not compete with any AutoNation dealerships in New York.
What’s more, according to the complaint, New York Court of Appeals ruled in 2015 – in Brown & Brown Inc. v. Johnson – that NDAs are unenforceable if they require more than is necessary to protect the employer’s interests or impose undue hardship on the employee.
The Brown & Brown case also involved a Florida-based company and a New York-based employee.
Florida law makes it easy to enforce NDAs and does not allow courts to consider the potential harm on employees, the Court of Appeals found, whereas New York requires courts to balance the interests of the employer, the employee and the public.
Thus, applying Florida law to an NDA “would be offensive to a fundamental public policy of this state,” the Court of Appeals ruled.
DeAngelis is asking the federal court in White Plains to declare that the NDA and Florida law “violate the public policy of the State of New York, and are therefore invalid and unenforceable.”
DeAngelis is represented by Tarrytown attorney Armand P. Mele.