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Press Release 08-03-2021

EEOC Wins $500,000 Jury Verdict Against Cigar City Motors for Sex Discrimination

Harley-Davidson Dealership Refused to Promote Female Because of Her Gender, Federal Agency Charged

TAMPA, Fla. – A federal jury has awarded $500,000 in punitive damages to Virginia Duncan, a female sales manager at a Harley-Davidson dealership, who was denied a promotion to a general manager position at its Tampa dealership on the basis of her sex, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.

The evidence at trial showed that management at Cigar City Motors — part of the Ferman Automotive Group, which had five Harley-Davidson dealerships in Florida — had never promoted a female employee to general manager prior to the EEOC’s lawsuit. Several former Cigar City general managers testified on Duncan’s behalf, and told the jury that Duncan was qualified for the general manager position, but that Cigar City thought she was too “motherly” for the job.  

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No 8:18-cv-02055-CPT) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida after first attempt¬ing to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The Tampa jury of eight returned a unanimous verdict finding that Cigar City was motivated by gender in denying Duncan the promotion and awarded punitive damages in the amount of $500,000.

“Today the jury vindicated Virginia Duncan, who has long battled stereotypes held by Cigar City that women could not be leaders,” said Beatriz Andre, supervisory trial attorney in the EEOC’s Miami District Office.

EEOC Trial Attorney Brandi Meredith added, “This is a victory for women who work to prove themselves and break glass ceilings in male-dominated industries.”

Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Miami District Office, added, “The jury’s verdict should serve as a wake-up call to the automotive industry, including Harley-Davison dealerships, that they are not exempt from federal laws which make workplace sex discrimination unlawful. It’s time for the ‘good old boy’ method of selecting general managers for their dealerships to be retired.”

Evangeline Hawthorne, the EEOC’s Tampa Field Office director, stated, “Although there is no shortage of qualified women entering the workplace, many women face hurdles in advancement. Employers that do not have female leadership should take a strong look at their promotion practices and ask themselves whether gender bias is playing a role in advancement opportunities.”  

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.