Cigar City Motors learned this the hard way after they were made to pay $500,000 in punitive damages following a sex discrimination lawsuit. In 2018, the EEOC filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the owners of a Tampa Harley-Davidson dealership for failing to promote a qualified female employee to general manager.
According to the lawsuit, Virginia Duncan, a female sales manager was not promoted to general manager because of her gender. Despite her having equal or greater experience than her male counterparts, Duncan was passed over nine times. As was detailed in the trial, the dealership had never promoted a female employee to the general manager position.
Former dealership general managers testified that Duncan was qualified for the position but was not promoted because management felt she was too “motherly.” Also, in order to be considered for the position, Duncan was required to complete a “mentorship” program, a process the male employees who were promoted did not need to complete.
The federal jury reached a unanimous verdict that the dealership’s conduct violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
StraightforWARD Legal Advice:
This verdict is a reminder for employers that overt sexism (or any other bias against a protected group) is not required to breach Title VII. Race, color, religion, sex, or national origin may not be used as a motivating factor for employment practices under the Civil Rights Act. Employers are encouraged to continually reexamine their business policies and procedures to ensure that they are in compliance with Title VII.