Stylist Accused Of Stealing Top-Secret Hair 'Color Formulas' Cards


All workers have access to company trade secrets and special equipment. But employers don't usually tolerate workers walking out with the goods. So, John Sahag Ltd., an upscale Manhattan-based hair salon that caters to celebs, has slapped a lawsuit against a former stylist, accusing her of taking "color formula cards" to her new job.

According to the lawsuit, which was first reported on by the New York Daily News, Reyna Garcia last month moved to a rival salon, Metodo Rossano Ferretti Hair Spa, but brought with her the "precise formula" of hair dyes preferred by clients and their contact information.

Don't laugh. This is no petty theft from the local barber shop. Sahag's celebrity clientele -- which reportedly include Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer Lopez -- pay $300 to $375 for hair treatments at Sahag, according to New York Magazine. And at the time Garcia, 33, left Sahag, she was thought to be working with anywhere between 200-400 clients. So if all the clients jumped ship after coming for a cut once a month, the financial loss could be as heavy as $150,000 a month. Sahag is seeking unspecified damages.

In speaking to the Daily News, Sahag attorney Paul Millus spoke of the color formulas as central to the stylist's business model. "The information on our cards is proprietary, precise," he said. "It involves formulas and combinations that were worked out over long periods of time."

More: What's Considered Stealing at Work?


Why does Sahag suspect a theft has taken place? According to the suit, four of Garcia's clients told Sahag that Garcia's new employer, Ferretti, contacted them and suggested they should move to Ferretti for hair-coloring. And because customers' contact information is part of the formula cards, Sahag connected the dots that the cards must have been taken by Garcia on her 10-block trip that separates the two salons in midtown Manhattan. "It's doubtful that she would have memorized the information," Millus added.

Garcia, for her part, has turned down requests from the media to discuss the matter. But Steven Miller, who's representing Ferretti, dismissed the lawsuit as a "a fishing expedition."

Thus far, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Anil Singh has issued a ban on the rival's use of the hair-coloring formulas. But Singh's order also said Ferretti has every right to reach out to Sahag's former clients.

Employee theft of all kinds is a growing problem in America. As AOL Jobs reported earlier this week, some workers have become so brazen they've even begun robbing cash from employers before even getting hired, as one Florida man stands accused of doing after applying for a job at a Citgo Station.

And in the last five years, employee thefts cost retailers alone about $15 billion a year, according to the National Retail Federation.
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12 Comments

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MonicaWhite9

before I saw the bank draft for $5119, I be certain that...my... mom in-law actualy earning money part-time at their laptop.. there friends cousin started doing this for under 6 months and recently cleard the depts on there apartment and bourt themselves a GMC. we looked here, goo.gl/YcMRl

July 18 2013 at 9:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
donna

This is Non sense...I am a Licensed Colorist, and have Never once worked with an index card, or written a formula down. A Professional Colorist can formulate with their eyes! Its the average hairstylist, that needs a card to work from. That is NOT a Colorist, but someone who is doing the application.

July 16 2013 at 7:24 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to donna's comment
sunnyhoney95

I agree that a colorist can formulate with her eyes as it is a skill. I was a colorist for professional product company and worked with the staff of many salons and a colorist should understand the color wheel , etc. However, an efficient salon colorist would keep a file on the client and the services they receive including color formulas. What happens when the client needs to have a color appointment and you are not available? I'm sure the client would not want another salon colorist to guess the formula and the color product used

October 07 2013 at 2:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Judy

Actually, many stylists think they can "whip a formula just like that", but in truth, it is a highly trained skill
to do that...that is why so many customers complain about what a stylist did to their hair...because lack
of experience and knowledge about hair color and how to properly mix and apply it to achieve the exact
color you want..this guy has a good case..and this stylist was wrong for taking records that did not belong to her..it's stealing pure and simple..and if this competitor salon called these clients only since she has
been employed by them, then she obviously had their phone #s too...thief, pure and simple!

July 14 2013 at 2:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
muscle3332007

Sounds like a legit lawsuit to me.

July 13 2013 at 5:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Luckymom

I don't patron a salon because of the salon. I patron the salon because of the stylist. She is the one that developed my style. As far as I am concerned these are HER trade secrets. I have followed her to 3 salons over the past 10 years.

July 13 2013 at 12:25 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Luckymom's comment
txholdemsdarlin

Then you know nothing about the business. And if she took them and it is proven in court she is a thief.

July 13 2013 at 7:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
UncurlyGirls

I wouldn't mind seeing those formulas--color is a serious art. Keratin, however, is not hard to do yourself but it's essential to use a professional product, not the ineffective drugstore/Sally'/retail treatments.

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Do it yourself Brazilian keratin straightening with Uncurly. If you can wash, dry, and iron...you're OVERQUALIFIED. UNCURLY!

July 11 2013 at 2:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
M

I call BS. ANY good salon has back up color records. And if this owner didn't then he is a fool. Also ANY stylist good at COLOR can whip up a formula "just like that". I have done corrective color the past ten years as a stylist and if you know how to truly mix coor this is no problem at all. Slow news day maybe??

July 11 2013 at 1:45 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to M's comment
Will Anderson

It isn't whether or not the original owner has copies or even originals. That is NOT the issue. The issue is whether the second company can appropriate the trade secrets of the first company through theft.

The law is quite clear that one may not use intellectual property that is illegally obtained. It would be akin to Pepsi stealing the formula for Coca-Cola and then trying to sell products made with the stolen formula.

And, it doesn't matter if you can "whip up a formula 'just like that.'" The second company must undertake its own efforts to develop the knowledge.

For example, even though any client list for any company could be generated simply by using a phone book, a little luck, and the proverbial monkey and his type writer, it is nonetheless illegal for one company to steal the client lists created by another company and then use it for commercial gain for itself or for harm to the original owner. The law requires the second company to have to go through its own honest efforts (however efficient or inefficient those efforts might be) to create the client list, or in this case the specific formulae.

Trade secret law is quite complex and is not something that you should dismiss simply because you have the ability to type the letters "BS."

Without property rights, anyone can simply take what they want and not worry about the costs incurred to create or develop the property in the first place. While it might have an immediate benefit of lowering prices in the shortterm, the long term effect is that inventors would become hyper protective of their property and spend considerable resources attempting to protect it from theft. That will ultimately translate into much higher prices longterm.

If it can be shown that the formulae were indeed stolen, my prediction is that the second salon will be barred from using the formulae and the naughty employee may end up going to jail. If the second salon asked the employee to steal the formulae, then that naughty employee will likely have a cell mate.

July 12 2013 at 2:20 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Will Anderson's comment
Purple Shell

My stylist mixes her own colors. Also my daughter who is a stylist. Those formulas belong to them, not the salon. If the stylist herself, formulated the colors, it was not theft. Also a good colorist can indeed mix up a formula that will match another's color formula. I do not believe that the formulas can get a copyright.

July 13 2013 at 1:49 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down
ehamlin906

As a retired stylist, my opinion is that if those were her personal clients, she did nothing wrong. If they were the salon's clients, it is a grey area. I memorized literally hundreds of colour formulations for my clients, I saw them for years and if you know your clients, then you remember what products you use on their hair. It is a cutthroat business, and this may be difficult to prove.

July 13 2013 at 7:47 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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