AUGUSTA — A human rights panel sided with a Farmingdale man in an employment discrimination complaint and a Skowhegan landlord in a housing discrimination complaint.

The two were among the local cases handled Monday by the Maine Human Rights Commission. The panel’s findings are not law, but may become grounds for lawsuits.

The Maine Human Rights Commission voted 2-1 Monday to find reasonable grounds to believe a Farmingdale man, Conrod Wilson, was a victim of retaliation when he was fired within a week of telling management he believed he was a victim of race discrimination.

Wilson had complained to the commission about his termination from his job with GIRI Community Drive LLC/GIRI Hotel Management of Augusta/Best Western of Augusta.

In a separate issue, the commission voted 3-0 against Wilson on his charge that he was a victim of discrimination because of race, color, national origin/ancestry, age and sex. Wilson, now 37, is originally from Jamaica, according to the report of the commission investigator.

Wilson, who previously lived in Randolph, worked for the hotel in the housekeeping department from March 2011 until his firing on Feb. 21, 2013. He was removed from his job as breakfast room attendant, described as a desirable post, in Feb. 14, 2013, and given other housekeeping/cleaning responsibilities.

“He was told quote, ‘Management wants an older white woman in that position,'” Wilson’s attorney, Max Katler, told commissioners.

When Wilson told management he believed that was unlawful discrimination, Wilson was fired, Katler said.

The management, through attorney Bob Kline, told commissioners that Wilson was fired because he failed to re-clean a large bathroom in a common area after being told to do so and walked off the job. According to the commission investigator’s report, management also said that Wilson repeatedly failed to turn in required checklists about the work he had done each day.

The case now moves into a conciliation phase, and Katler said after the hearing that if that process fails, he anticipates moving forward with a federal lawsuit against the hotel.

“The MHRC has sent Best Western an important message that it cannot punish employees who report reasonable concerns about illegal discrimination in the workplace,” Katler said later via email. “This ruling protects all Maine workers from illegal retaliation and reminds all employers that Maine has a zero tolerance policy for discrimination in the workplace.”

Wilson said after the hearing that he has since found employment in another industry. Kline was in a meeting and unavailable to respond after the hearing.

In separate cases also handled Monday, commissioners voted 3-0 to overturn a recommendation by its investigator and to side with a Skowhegan landlord who told a woman that a rental unit across a busy street from a river “might not be the best spot” for her and her four children, finding that the landlord had not discriminated against her on the basis of familial status.

Landlord Michael Adams told commissioners he made that comment out of concern for the safety of the children of Mary Johnson of Skowhegan, who had telephoned him asking about the unit. He also said his brother, Scot Adams, already had taken a deposit on that apartment from another individual, and the unit was eventually rented by that person.

The commission’s chief investigator, Victoria Ternig, had recommended a finding of reasonable grounds to believe the brothers discriminated against Johnson “by stating a discriminatory preference in housing.” But commissioners unanimously disagreed and instead sided with the landlord.

“I just don’t think that what was said in this case was an indication of preference on family status,” said Arnold Clark, commission chairman.

Commissioner Deborah Whitworth said, “I would expect the property owner would describe the property to me.”

The commission upheld 3-0 the investigator’s recommendation against Johnson, who had maintained she was a victim of discrimination because the Adamses refused to rent to her on the basis of familial status. Commissioners also were told Johnson never came to view the unit. Johnson did not attend Monday’s hearing.

Michael Adams said afterward he did not refuse to rent to Johnson.

“I was just more concerned about the safety of the children,” he said.

In several other cases involving local people and organizations, commissioners found reasonable grounds to believe that Eric L. Thomas of Winslow was subjected to unlawful disability discrimination by Pan Am Railways Inc., of Billerica, Massachusetts, when the company refused to grant accommodations, terminated his employment and retaliated against him.

The investigator’s report indicated Thomas worked for Pan Am at the railroad company’s location in Waterville from July 2012 to Feb. 28, 2014, first as a machinist and then as assistant manager. He took medical leave for cancer treatment and returned to the company as a machinist rather than his former position.

The case was handled on the consent agenda Monday, so there were no oral arguments heard Monday.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

badams@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @betadams