TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The government has sued the Texas-based fast-food chain Whataburger for allegedly retaliating against a white restaurant manager in Florida who refused to follow an upper management directive to hire only white applicants.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Monday that it filed the lawsuit last week in district court in Tallahassee after failing to reach a pre-litigation agreement.

The suit alleges that Whataburger general and area managers demanded that a restaurant manager in Tallahassee hire only white applicants because Whataburger wanted “the faces behind the counter to match the customer base.”

After the manager refused to follow the directive, the suit says, she was subjected to verbal abuse and unwarranted discipline.

Whataburger spokeswoman Jenny Gregorcyk denied the allegations, adding that about 75 percent of its workforce self-describes as non-white.