WATERVILLE (AP) – Two hairdressers were threatened with arrest this week for alleged breach of contract by working at a salon within five miles of a salon where they previously worked.

Nicole Lessard, 22, and Jenna Robinson, 26, were served a court order Wednesday that said they must either quit their jobs or face criminal charges.

Lessard, of Cornville, and Robinson, of Vassalboro, were given the order when they arrived for work at Remedy Hair and Nail Salon.

Superior Court Judge Kirk Studstrup issued the restraining order Monday at the request of Tammy Derosby-Roy, owner of Agora Hair Gallery and Day Spa, where Lessard and Robinson used to work.

Lessard and Robinson had signed noncompete agreements when they went to work for Derosby-Roy in June 2002. The agreements stated that after leaving the business, they would not work for another salon within a five-mile radius of Agora for 12 months.

Lessard left the business in February, and Robinson two months later. They are allegedly in violation of the contract because Remedy is less than two miles from Agora.

Lessard and Robinson said they understood that they violated the agreement when they rented booths at Remedy, but hoped Derosby-Roy would forgive them given the sluggish economy.

Robinson said she had no choice but to ply her trade wherever she could – even if it meant breaching her contract – after she received no response from a dozen resumes she sent to employers outside the hairstyling industry.

“I can’t flip burgers for five dollars an hour unless the state wants to support me, and I’m not trying to have that,” she said. “I’m trying to work.”

Walter McKee, Derosby-Roy’s lawyer, said noncompete agreements are common in the salon industry where clients often follow their favorite hairdressers from one business to another.

Such agreements prevent an exodus of employees from ruining a former employer’s business by taking all of their clients, he said.

“You don’t want (a former employee) right next door,” he said.

McKee said Derosby-Roy feels betrayed by her former employees because they assured her they were leaving the salon trade permanently when they stopped working for her.

“These people said they were going on to do other things,” he said. “There was definitely an element of deception.”

AP-ES-05-23-03 0215EDT


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