Trooper Can Proceed With Marital Discrimination Claim

Stacy Jones Tucker was a “buck sergeant” for the Georgia State Patrol, assigned to the Hinesville post. Tucker began having problems at work in 2006 when she married Robbie Tucker, who operated a wrecker service and was on a referral list for the State Patrol. Prior to the marriage, Tucker knew that at least one of her supervisors possessed a low opinion of Robbie Tucker, based on a comment he made to her. Tucker conceded that her husband was quick-tempered, emotional, and bipolar.

When Robbie Tucker was involved in several low-level incidents that resulted in the Patrol’s response, Tucker’s supervisor told her that “she had made a mistake – she needed to choose between her marriage and her job.” Tucker was devastated, but due to her supervisors’ directions, she separated from her husband. After she told her supervisor that she had moved out, he assured her that it was “the right thing to do.”

Even after the separation, Tucker’s supervisors told her that she needed to end her marriage. Tucker complained about these comments to various individuals, including the head of the Patrol’s legal department. In response, a lieutenant stated that “Tucker had to get a divorce or forget about her career.” Upon considering this information, Tucker decided she had no choice but to resign, and filed a lawsuit against the State. Tucker’s lawsuit alleged in part that the State’s actions violated her “right of intimate association.”

A federal court refused to dismiss the lawsuit. The Court recounted that “under the Constitution, a person has a fundamental right to marry, and the State cannot unduly interfere with that intimate relationship. Tucker’s evidence, if believed, establishes that she was constructively discharged because her supervisors did not like her husband. There is no indication that her husband’s work as a wrecker operator interfered with her job performance. Tucker was told to choose between her marriage and her job, distraught, she separated from her husband. When Tucker’s supervisors were still not satisfied, she resigned. According to Tucker and Robbie Tucker, the damage was done. The wounds inflicted by Tucker’s supervisors did not heal. Ultimately, Tucker lost her job and her marriage.”

The Court found that these allegations were more than sufficient to send the matter to a jury. Moreover, the Court found that there was sufficient evidence to send to the jury Tucker’s individual lawsuits against each of her supervisors: “The Court finds that there is sufficient evidence that each man unduly interfered with Tucker’s marriage. Four of the five individual supervisors told her she needed to choose between her job and her marriage, which is a blatant and unwarranted intrusion into that intimate relationship. Although there is other evidence of interference by these men, that evidence alone, if believed, could support a jury finding of a First Amendment violation.”

Tucker v. Georgia Department of Public Safety, 2009 WL 2135807 (S.D. Ga. 2009).

This article appears in the January 2010 issue