NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal appeals court has ruled a jury will hear complaints from a Tennessee highway patrolman who claimed discrimination based on his political affiliation.
In a Dec 20 ruling, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision and remanded the case for a jury trial.
The trooper, Robert Eckerman, says in his lawsuit that he has been working for the Tennessee Highway Patrol since 1984, but was denied promotions and transfers and ultimately demoted from the rank of lieutenant to sergeant after Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen took office in 2003.
Eckerman, who displayed bumper stickers on his personal car and put up yard signs for Republican political candidates, filed a separate lawsuit claiming discrimination in 2006. About six months later, Eckerman was one of two officers who were demoted following an investigation into allegations of misconduct by a superior.
According to a summary of that investigation, which was completed in November 2006, Eckerman violated several Highway Patrol general orders including spreading rumors about a superior officer, failing to inform his supervisors about the allegations, conducting an "unauthorized investigation" into the allegations and failing to answer questions during the investigation.
Eckerman challenged his demotion ...