TAMPA, Fla. — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is suing Ferman Automotive Group and Cigar City Motors, which operates Tampa Harley-Davidson and other car and motorcycle dealerships there, for discriminating against a female employee.

In its lawsuit filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Tampa Division, the EEOC alleges that Ferman violated federal law by failing to promote a female manager to general manager nine times, even though she had expressed interest, was equally or more qualified than the male candidates promoted, and was recommended to the role in at least two instances by outgoing general managers.

“The EEOC has long fought to protect women from hitting the glass ceiling in all professions and from the outdated stereotypes about women in leadership which continue to persist,” said EEOC's Tampa Field Director Evangeline Hawthorne. “EEOC will continue to enforce the law to ensure that employers afford women the same promotional opportunities as men."

The lawsuit also alleges that Ferman required the female sales manager, Virginia Duncan, to participate in a "mentorship" program to be eligible for promotion. The male job candidates promoted to the positions did not have the same requirement.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The complaint seeks monetary and injunctive relief to address the group’s alleged discriminatory practices. Duncan and the EEOC are also asking the court to require Ferman to implement programs that offer equal opportunities for advancement to women and implement policies that prohibit gender-based discrimination.

“Although Title VII was passed more than 50 years ago, women nationwide continue to be passed over for promotion because of their sex or gender. This contributes to the gender wage gap and affects a woman's ability to provide for themselves and their families,” said Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District Office. “The law is clear — employers cannot discriminate on the basis of sex and they must provide a level playing field for all employees to compete for management positions.”