GORHAM, Maine — The campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Shawn Moody angrily denounced suggestions he mistreated an employee who brought a sexual discrimination complaint over her firing after she gave birth.
The Maine GOP on Friday called news reports about a $20,000 settlement paid to the former employee a "smear" against the candidate just weeks before Election Day.
The settlement, first reported by the New York Times, stems from single mother Jill Hayward's ordeal after being fired from Moody's Collision Centers. She filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission in 2006, but it was withdrawn after Moody's insurer settled.
Moody, who's running against Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills and two independents, said Friday that the terms of the settlement prevented him from discussing details.
But he insisted all workers, men and women, were treated well.
"Let me just say this, and in the strongest way possible, I have always treated every co-worker employee with dignity and respect, always," Moody said in a statement. "It is just outrageous to even suggest my business does not have opportunities for women."
The 2006 complaint states that Moody told Hayward: "I know you gave me 210 percent of yourself, but you won't be able to do the job now that you have" a child. It also states that Moody asserted Hayward's "responsibilities have changed" due to motherhood.
Hayward didn't respond to an email request for comment from The Associated Press.
Surrounded by female employees and family members in Gorham, Moody suggested Friday that Hayward's dismissal had nothing to do with her pregnancy or being a single mom. "Honestly, we never let anyone go in this company for any reason other than performance-related issues," he said.
One of his workers, herself a single mom, praised the employee-owned company for being flexible when she needed time with her child.
The complaint states Moody hired a man to fill Hayward's position and that at the time, only four or five of approximately 50 employees were women. The company said there are now 200 employees, about 25 of whom are women. Six of the women are in leadership positions.