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

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 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.


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