For now, though, the embattled executive is still focused on ensuring FCA and its dealers keep hitting their numbers each month, his lawyer said.
"He started out as a paper boy, cut grass, he was a golf caddie, worked at Ponderosa Steakhouse for $2.20 an hour. He has this work ethic background," the lawyer, Deborah Gordon, said. "He's hanging in there and working as hard as ever. It's an interesting situation, but Reid is certainly doing everything he needs to do with the company."
One dealer said the lawsuit has thrust the company's sales operations into "bizarro world." Despite the strange circumstances, "here Reid is still running their sales operations," said the dealer, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
While Bigland continues to meet with dealers and carry out his duties, some wonder how long he can continue to do so. Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University, doesn't see Bigland sticking around when the dust settles.
"I would bet no," Henning said. "They would come up with a separation agreement where he would receive his compensation. It doesn't sound like he's anxious to leave. Usually in this type of case, you try to come up with a resolution where the person can exit gracefully."
Mary Inman, a partner at the London office of law firm Constantine Cannon who spent more than 20 years representing whistleblowers in the U.S., says having Bigland maintain his duties does not seem like a sustainable long-term approach. At the same time, gaining whistleblower status protects him from being fired.
"Something needs to happen internally," Inman said. "Litigation is good for protecting his rights, but it's not great for healing a work environment. Barring some sort of an HR intervention to get people back on the same page and heal wounds, I don't see him wanting to stay around, or him feeling like he's in a condition where he can be successful."
Bigland's lawsuit claims FCA retaliated against him because of his participation in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into the company's sales reporting and his decision to sell his FCA stock. The complaint portrays Bigland as a scapegoat for sales practices that were changed in July 2016, when the company admitted that an 75-month streak of year-over-year gains had actually ended three years earlier.
It was filed May 24 in a Detroit-area court and became publicly known June 5, when it moved to federal court. Between those dates, FCA posted a 2 percent sales gain for May as total industry sales declined slightly.
Bigland, a 52-year-old bodybuilding enthusiast, joined Chrysler in his native Canada in 2006 and has been head of U.S. sales since July 2011. He also has global responsibility for Ram and is CEO of FCA Canada.
Bigland took charge of U.S. sales a little more than a year into the infamous streak that started in April 2010. He energized dealers who were struggling in the aftermath of Chrysler's 2009 bankruptcy and helped them lure more customers with big discounts, offering large bonuses to stores that hit their targets.
"You are what your numbers are," Bigland told Bloomberg in 2012. "We have to continue to prove ourselves every day."
Inman said she is surprised the episode became public. With executives at this level, such disputes typically get handled behind closed doors.
"When you've taken the extraordinary step of suing, then it's usually more of a last resort," Inman said. "You feel like things are not solvable other ways. I think things are pretty broken."