A former Amazon manager is responding defiantly to the company’s lawsuit over his new job at Google — further positioning his case as a new legal test for tech-industry employment agreements.
A lawyer for Zoltan Szabadi, the former Amazon Web Services partnerships manager who was sued by the company after taking a job with Google, is asking a King County Superior Court judge to throw out the lawsuit — challenging the validity of Amazon’s standard employment agreement, including a controversial non-compete clause that restricts the activities of employees for up to 18 months after they leave.
“The restrictive covenants in Amazon’s form agreement, which it compels most if not all of its tens of thousands of employees to sign, are excessive, overbroad, and not crafted to impose reasonable post-employment limitations for the purpose of protecting interests that Amazon may legitimately protect through otherwise unenforceable restraints on trade,” writes lawyer Keith Petrak, responding on behalf of Szabadi in a court filing this week.
The filing continues, “Rather, they have the effect of unreasonably chilling employee mobility and depriving employees of opportunities to advance their careers and better their lives simply by utilizing their general skills and knowledge in their chosen fields. This lawsuit, which Amazon chose to pursue publicly rather than work with Szabadi and Google to explain any legitimate concerns Amazon might have and work to craft restrictions tailored to address such concerns, is part and parcel of such efforts.”
We’ve contacted Amazon for comment on the response. The company said in its original suit that it believed Szabadi’s new position with Google would hurt its competitive position against Google Cloud Platform.
“These narrow restrictions are intended to protect Amazon’s trade secrets and its highly confidential information, as well as Amazon’s current and prospective customer relationships, its existing and prospective business relationships, and its confidential plans and strategies,” the company said in the complaint.
Amazon’s suit, originally reported on GeekWire this week, will be closely watched in the tech industry as a new test of the standard employment agreements that Amazon and some other large tech companies require employees to sign when they’re hired.
Some startup advocates contend that such agreements limit the flow of talent required to create a healthy tech ecosystem.
The suit, filed June 27 in King County Superior Court in Seattle, seeks to take advantage of a more favorable climate for non-compete deals in Washington state, where the terms of such deals have generally been allowed, if considered reasonable. Non-compete clauses have repeatedly been found invalid in California, where Google is based.