Is stealing a salon client list a civil or criminal offense?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Is stealing a salon client list a civil or criminal offense?

I own a salon and an ex-manager downloaded my client list to use in her new booth rental. A customer contacted me with the actual text the ex-manager had sent the customer soliciting her to her new business. The customer had never been serviced by this stylist and felt violated that her personal information phone

number had been breached by this ex-employee. Can I, as the salon owner, sue the ex-manager for stealing proprietary information and would that be a small claims suit or a criminal offense? What are my rights for her stealing my intellectual information?

Asked on July 3, 2019 under Business Law, Colorado


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

It is theft, but the police are very unlikely to actually investigate, or the prosecutor to bring charges for, this matter: this is the sort of thing they tend to see (incorrectly) as a "civil" matter, akin to a business or contractual dispute, and not a "real" crime like burglary, armed robbery, assault, etc.
You can, however, sue. You can sue in small claims for any losses to can prove to a reasonable degree of certainty, such as if you can show that customers on that list left you after the ex-manager took the list (you could sue for the lost business or profits, up to the small claims court limits). Or you could sue in "regular" county court for not just money but also (or instead; i.e. if you don't have or you can't prove losses) a court order ("injunction") barring them from using the list on pain of being punished by the court if they violate the order.

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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