A gender and age discrimination lawsuit filed against the Georgia Department of Public Safety by one of the state patrol’s first female troopers has been dismissed by a federal judge.
Chief U.S. District Court Judge Julie Carnes ruled this week that the lawsuit brought by former Georgia State Patrol post commander Francis Bennett failed to show she was fired because of her age or gender.
Bennett, 64, was one of four women who became the first female troopers to patrol Georgia highways in 1978. She worked for a number of years at the patrol’s Gainesville post before becoming a post commander at the Blue Ridge post, which covers Fannin, Gilmer, Towns and Union counties.
Bennett was fired on the last day of 2006 for what patrol officials said were well-documented infractions, including unprofessional behavior, using profanity in uniform and inappropriate physical contact with subordinates.
Bennett has refuted the charges and said men in similar positions were suspended, not fired. She filed the lawsuit in 2007 after an administrative judge upheld the firing.
Carnes wrote this week that there was no evidence presented that Bennett was treated less favorably than a man in the same situation. Bennett’s replacement as post commander was a woman, Carnes noted.
The judge wrote that Bennett, who was fired over seven charges of misconduct, never presented any evidence that a male trooper had similar complaints lodged against him.
Bennett also did not produce evidence that younger troopers in similar situations were treated differently, the judge wrote.
Carnes wrote that the Department of Public Safety was able to show a “legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for (Bennett’s) termination.”
Bennett has 30 days from the date of ruling to appeal.
Efforts to reach Bennett and her attorney, David Ates, were unsuccessful Friday.
Daryl Robinson, a spokesman for the Georgia Attorney General’s Office, said the ruling was pleasing but declined further comment.