Ex-Cos Bar employee sued over trade secrets
Cos Bar, an Aspen purveyor of perfume, cosmetics and various spa-related services, is suing a former employee for allegedly using its database of clients to solicit business.
The boutique chain, founded by Aspen resident Lily Garfield in 1976, filed suit Thursday against Elizabeth McGuire-Chappell, who worked at the downtown location from December 2001 to Feb. 24.
The suit accuses her of violating terms of the employee handbook when she sent out a blast email last month to customers of Cos Bar. The handbook requires Cos Bar employees to keep company information, such as client lists and contact information, confidential.
McGuire-Chappell’s alleged email said she worked at Ultimate Salon, had purchased a hydra-facial machine and “I will be offering all services at a more reasonable price.”
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“The ‘blast’ sent by McGuire-Chappell constitutes unauthorized use of Cos Bar’s proprietary information, and it invades the privacy of the customers who received that blast,” the suit says.
McGuire-Chappell, however, fiercely denied the allegations and said her former employer was “harassing” her. She said she never took a list of customers but had built her stable of clients over the years.
“I have very loyal clients,” she said. “And I have more integrity than that. I don’t steal.”
On March 19, Cos Bar demanded, through a hand-delivered letter and email to McGuire-Chappell, for the return of the customer list, the suit says. She also was warned Wednesday but “has not complied with Cos Bar’s demands,” the suit says.
Attorney Chris Bryan of Garfield & Hecht PC — Lily Garfield’s husband is name partner Ron Garfield — said it’s too early to tell how much in damages will be sought.
“It remains to be seen,” he said.
But, the lawsuit said, “Cos Bar has lost and may continue to lose business and profits as a result of McGuire-Chappell’s taking the property and her unlawful use thereof.”
The suit seeks a court order through injunctive relief for McGuire-Chappell to return the client information to Cos Bar. McGuire-Chappell also faces civil charges of misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract and civil theft, along with other claims.
“I did nothing in any way, shape or form of stealing, or anything unlawful,” she said. “And I’ve never said a bad word about them. This is just pure cruelty on their part and that will be proven in court.”
The suit was filed in Pitkin County District Court.
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The Basalt Town Council voted 7-0 Tuesday night to take a first, small step to try to spur business at restaurants and retail shops. They will mail $20 vouchers to all town households.