What constitutes unlawful interference with a business by a former employee?

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What constitutes unlawful interference with a business by a former employee?

I own my optical business and had a optometrist who worked along side me for 8 year until 2 weeks ago. Can he send out post cards that read, “Come see us at our new location, making it seem that my location has also moved?

Asked on May 7, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Ohio

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

What you describe may constitute "unfair competition" under the law, since it could constitute a false or misleading statement, made in advertising, marketing or commerce, which can or does injure your business. Your former optomitrist could, in the absence of some agreement to the contrary, lawfully send out announcements that *he* is at (or has) a new business--so long as he does not use proprietary information to do so (see below)--but if he implies that the business itself has moved, that can be misleading and therefore may be actionable.

Also, employees may not use their employer's proprietary information, which they were given access to only to do their job, for their own or a new employer's benefit. So if the optometrist is mailing to everyone in town (or a certain area), or is using a commercially purchased mailing list, that would be legal; but if he is using your customer list, which he knows only from having worked with you, you may be able to sue him for the misappropriaion of your proprietary information, too.

You therefore may have a cause of action, and should consult with an attorney (e.g. an intellectual property or business litigation) attorney to evaluate your rights and options in greater detail.


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