If I got fired from a cleaning company and decided to start my own business, can my former employer take action against me?

UPDATED: Mar 21, 2012

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If I got fired from a cleaning company and decided to start my own business, can my former employer take action against me?

I did send some flyers to some of the houses that I cleaned for stating that I am starting my own business and if they were unhappy with there current service to give me a call. My former employer found out, I was told the owners were going to call their lawyers. Do I have anything to worry about?

Asked on March 21, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Wisconsin


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you might have something to worry about. If you sent fliers to the houses you were cleaning for the former employer, you used proprietary information--their customer list--for your own benefit and to compete with them. That is illegal, even in the absence of a non-competition agreement; an employer may never use proprietary information for his or her own benefit. If you had mailed to, or dropped fliers at, every house in town, among which were customers of the other company, that would be different--in that case, you would not have used proprietary information to target their customers. But if you did specifically target their customers, they may be able to take legal action against you.

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