Can I contact my former employer’s customers?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Can I contact my former employer’s customers?

I quit my job because of personal conflicts with my boss. So I opened my own salon about 10 miles from him. Then my ex-boss texted me and warned me not to contacts his customers. I worked for him for 5 years and built up many my loyal customers and they keep coming back

to me. I need to contact them to let them known I own my own business. Another thing is I did not sign any contact with my ex-boss that I’m not allowed to contact his customers. When he texts me is it his right to tell me not to reach out his customers? He owned them?

Asked on October 25, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

It's not that he "owns" the customers, but you cannot use information, such as customer names or contact information, you only received as part of your job, in order to do your job, now for your own benefit. If you do so, you may be misappropriating your former employer's proprietary information and he could sue you. The law doesn't let you use information given to you so you could benefit the employer for your own benefit.
What you can do:
1) Any customers you knew independently of your work for the ex-employer (customers of yours from before you worked for him; friends and family) you can contact.
2) You can generally adverstise your business--i.e. not specifically contact his customers, but rather take our print, radio, or internet ads, put us fliers/signs, do a "free styling" day for the poor to get some media coverage, etc.--and if his former customers respond to you due to general advertising or publicity, that's fine.
3) Word of mouth--one of his customers who becomes aware of your new salon can tell others.
4) Etc.--anything other advertising or marketing that is general or global.
The only thing you can't do is use the contact information you received only because you worked for the former employer to directly contact his customers.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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