A police sergeant in Vicksburg, Michigan will have his day in court after his lawsuit claiming discrimination in the police department, which was dismissed earlier this year, was reinstated on Monday.
David Eichaker, a 13 year veteran of the Vicksburg Police Department, filed a lawsuit in 2012 alleging that the Vicksburg police chief discriminated against him due to his service in the military.
In January, a federal judge dismissed his lawsuit. This week, U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell’s decision was overturned by three U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judges.
The judges reversed Bell’s decision because they felt he made a mistake by overlooking evidence of “anti-military animus” when former Vicksburg Village Manager Matt Crawford decided not to promote Eichaker to police chief in 2010, despite being the best candidate.
In their 10 page ruling, the judges said, “Eichaker presented evidence that would allow a reasonable jury to find that his military service was a motivating factor in Crawford’s decision to deny him a promotion.”
Eichaker served in the Air Force as well as the Marine Corps. At the time he filed the lawsuit, he was a member of the Michigan Air National Guard.
According to MLive, Eichaker’s lawsuit claims that he was demoted to sergeant, then to patrolman by Police Chief Eric West after West was appointed as the Vicksburg chief of police.
The suit also claims that when West was informed about Eichaker’s plans to contact the Employment Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Defense Department agency that resolves military commitment conflicts between private employers and employees, he lost his temper.
In the lawsuit, Eichaker said despite having two stints as the acting police chief in 2003 and 2005, he was passed over for the position when Mike Descheneau, the former chief, retired.
Eichaker claims he was not selected for the job due to his military service. He said that Crawford told other people that he was not interested in the position because he was more focused on his military career.
When Judge Bell dismissed the case earlier this year, he said that Eichaker heard Crawford’s statement from Councilwoman Christina Klok. When Klok testified before Bell, she said Crawford never told the council that Eichaker wasn’t interested in the chief position.
Klok said Crawford told the council members that Eichaker had a young family and a military career he was pursuing when she asked him if Eichaker was interested in the job.
The federal appeals court ruled that Klok’s testimony, as well as the testimony of fellow council member Marc Boyer, who was told by Crawford that he did not hire Eichaker because “it would be hard to have a Police Chief if he was called away for military duty,” was relevant to the case.
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