Scott Teutscher worked for the Riverside County Sheriff's Association (RSA) from 1999 until he was dismissed in 2005. Beginning in 2002, the Riverside Sheriff's Association Legal Defense Trust covered the legal costs for Duane Winchell, a deputy sheriff, in a domestic relations proceeding. These legal expenses were outside of the trust document. Teutscher blew the whistle by reporting the payment of Winchell's legal fees from the trust to the sheriff's internal investigations unit. Teutscher was fired a few months later.
Whistleblowing and retaliation
Teutscher argued that he was dismissed in retaliation for blowing the whistle on the illegal payments made by the RSA Legal Defense Trust. The RSA argued that it terminated Teutscher for alleged misconduct surrounding an angry outburst that occurred after a June 2005 disciplinary incident. The U.S. District Court found that Teutscher was terminated in retaliation for his whistleblowing, as evidence showed that he was fired six days after revealing his identity as the whistleblower.
Recovery of damages
In April, a jury concluded that RSA wrongfully terminated Teutscher in violation of public policy and awarded $457,250 in compensatory damages and $357,500 in punitive damages. In July, the U.S. District Court upheld the awards and ordered the RSA to reinstate Teutscher to his position and pay $571,823.50 in legal fees.
Is reinstatement the right remedy?
Eight years after his wrongful termination, the court orders the defendant to reinstate Teutscher to his position. Many argue that reinstatement is often not the best remedy, because the relationship between the employee and employer has deteriorated to such a low level that continued cooperation cannot be reasonably expected. When considering reinstatement, courts examine the following factors:
Is there a comparable position available?
Does the reinstatement displace an innocent employee?
Do both parties agree that reinstatement is a realistic option?
Is the hostility between the parties so serious as to make reinstatement difficult?
Has the plaintiff found comparable work?
Did the plaintiff change career goals?
Reinstatement used to be the remedy of choice. Now, courts turn to awarding front pay.