Two “Dancing With the Stars” pros are headed to court. Val and Maks Chmerkovskiy are suing two former dance studio employees for stealing their clients. They co-own a dance studio with former “Dancing With the Stars” pro Tony Dovolani.
Here’s what you need to know about the lawsuit and what the Chmerkovskiy brothers say happened:
The DWM Owners Say Former Employees Poached Their Clients
According to a report from Radar Online, court documents show that DWM Dance Studios — the DWM stands for “dance with me” and is owned by the Chmerkovskiy brothers and Dovolani — is suing two former employees for trying to poach the studio’s clients.
The defendants are former instructors Yuliya Kozhushanova and Debora Bettencourt, who worked out of the locations in Houston and Austin, Texas, respectively. The court documents say that Kozhushanova worked from March 2020 to January 2021 and Bettencourt was employed as an instructor from January 2020 to March 2021, according to Radar. Both employees are accused of using knowledge of the DWM customers to solicit clients after their employment at DWM came to an end.
The court documents say that the studio spends money “to train each and every one of its dance instructors” and is now suing for breach of the employment agreement, according to Radar.
One of the lawsuits reads, “Defendant breached her obligations under the Employee Agreement by violating the covenant not to solicit customers of Plaintiff and agreement not to disclose proprietary information belonging to Plaintiff to the detriment of Plaintiff, including client lists or information,” Radar reported.
The outlet said the brothers are seeking unspecified damages.
This Is Not the First Time DWM Has Sued a Former Employee
In September 2019, a similar lawsuit was filed against former instructor Klajdi Kasemi, who worked for the studio from 2015 to 2018, according to The Blast.
In that lawsuit, the studio said that after he was no longer employed with them, Kasemi was not allowed to give dance lessons within 10 miles of the studio, nor was he allowed to solicit DWM’s clients. The lawsuit said that Kasemi did both, according to the outlet.
The attorney for the studio told The Blast at the time, “DWM invests a significant amount of time and money to develop its brand, obtain customers, and to meticulously train each and every staff member to be superior dance instructors. Breaching the agreement is detrimental to DWM’s continued success and violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
That lawsuit was eventually settled outside of court, with the Chmerkovskiys dismissing all claims in exchange for the court issuing an injunction against Kasemi from “soliciting and/or performing dance related services to its current or former customers,” reported The Blast.
There was also a similar lawsuit filed in 2018 against former instructor Gregory Hightower at DWM’s New York City dance studio location. Hightower said at the time that the employee agreement was unenforceable and was asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed, according to The Blast.
“Dancing With the Stars” season 30 is expected to premiere in September 2021 on ABC.
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