Jennifer Tyler

Jennifer Tyler (Facebook) 

WATERVILLE - A jury has awarded a Chelan County sheriff’s deputy $500,000 in a civil suit against her employer on Wednesday.

Jurors agreed the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office retaliated against Deputy Jennifer Tyler after she testified against her former boss for allegedly groping her while she was a deputy in a county in Oklahoma. Court documents state that a jury panel of four women and eight men awarded Tyler $300,000 for emotional harm she endured in the department after she testified against the Oklahoma Sheriff who was convicted of 35 counts of sexual misconduct and rape. Tyler was also awarded $200,000 for another claim of retaliation after she was hired back on the Chelan County sheriff force in 2013. The jury also granted $6,000 to Tyler based on a claim for salary she lost.

iFiber One News reached out to Chelan County Sheriff Brian Burnett.

“I was surprised by the verdict,” said Burnett. “I didn’t like the outcome but I do respect the system. We’re going to spend time addressing such internal issues moving forward.”

Prior to joining the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office in 2006, Tyler was a deputy in Custer County, Okla. Tyler was sexually groped by then Sheriff Mike Burgess, who was charged with 35 felonies for sexually abusing female prisoners in his custody. Tyler testified against Sheriff Burgess in 2008 and he was convicted of 13 counts including forcible oral sodomy, kidnapping and rape including the offense against Tyler. He was sentenced to 79 years in prison.

iFiber One News obtained court documents that state that Tyler felt she had been treated differently than her male colleagues. The court document also states that the county and her superiors in the sheriff’s office had been “discriminating and retaliating against her on the basis of her gender, including acts of unfairly and disproportionately reprimanding her for things for which other, male employees were not reprimanded."

Court documents also stated that Tyler felt her superiors and colleagues resented her after returning from Oklahoma and that they refused to work with her when she needed backup.

Tyler also complained about being left out of email chains that were sent to her squad.

Tyler was fired on Nov. 1, 2010 after missing a mandatory accident investigation training session but she claims that she was illegally terminated due to the circumstances. Tyler appealed the county’s decision and was reinstated as a Chelan County deputy in March of 2013 on an arbitrator’s decision.

Chelan County Judge John Hotchkiss dismissed Tyler’s initial gender discrimination complaint in a 2016 summary judgement claiming there was insufficient evidence but he did let her retaliation complaint case proceed. Under Washington law, employers cannot retaliate against staff for acts such as reporting workplace malfeasance or discrimination.

The Jennifer Tyler vs. Chelan County trial only lasted seven days and it only took four hours for jurors to come up with a verdict.

However, Sheriff Burnett did confirm that an internal investigation involving Tyler is pending. Burnett could not confirm the allegations but she is reportedly being investigated for an allegation of untruthfulness.