A man has been ordered to pay his former employer $110,058 after he set up a rival company and attracted a former customer away.

Graeme Hill was employed by Tex Onsite, a company that provides high voltage testing and calibration services, until he resigned and helped to set up a rival company Mobile Test 'n' Cal NZ.

Tex Onsite went to the Employment Relations Authority and accused Hill of breaching his duties of loyalty to his former employer by trying to take customers from Tex Onsite to his new company.

Member of the Authority Anna Fitzgibbon found Hill has used a USB drive to steal Tex Onsite's customer database, pricing and secret information, breaking the confidential clause in his employment agreement.


Fitzgibbon found Hill broke an agreement not to solicit clients in six months after his resignation and convinced a client to leave Tex Onsite and use Mobile Text 'n' Cal instead. Hill said he only contacted the key customer after six months had passed.

Tex Onsite said the loss of the client led to losses of $70,736 for the company.

Fitzgibbon was critical of Hill in her findings, saying he posted a derogatory statement about Tex Onsite on social media site LinkedIn and obstructed the ERA's process by failing to produce the USB used to collect the confidential information, and producing a reformatted USB disk. He was penalised $10,000 for obstructing the ERA process.

Hill was ordered to pay the $70,736 damages to and around $10,000 for the time and equipment used to investigate the stolen information. He was penalised $18,000 for breaching his employment agreement and implied obligations as an employee.

Read the full ERA decision here