A 2006 sex discrimination allegation against Republican Shawn Moody and his auto repair business jolted the 2018 race for governor Friday after a new report revealed details of the complaint to the Maine Human Rights Commission.

The 12-year-old complaint, which the Portland Press Herald and other Maine media had previously investigated but did not report, was eventually withdrawn as part of a settlement between Moody and Jill Hayward, who said she was fired when Moody told her she would “no longer be able to do the job” after giving birth to her son.

In an interview published by The New York Times, Hayward said Moody delivered the news that she was being fired in person at her apartment as she was feeding her newborn a bottle while on an eight-week maternity leave.

“It is just outrageous that anyone would even suggest that my business does not have opportunities for women,” Moody said in a video statement released by his campaign. “I have always treated every co-worker with dignity and respect, men or women, always, which is why Moody’s has repeatedly won Best Places to Work in Maine.”

‘IMPORTANT HEALING PROCESS’

Moody is in a close race with Democrat Janet Mills and trailed by two independents, Terry Hayes and Alan Caron, to succeed Paul LePage as Maine governor.

Hayward, who did not respond to multiple requests from the Portland Press Herald for an interview in early September, told the Times that she settled with Moody for about $20,000, with $3,000 of that going to her attorney. Hayward said she felt compelled to break a non-disclosure agreement that was part of the settlement to tell her story in part because any time she sees Moody on television, “…I turn it off because it will make me teary.”

In a phone interview Friday, Hayward told the Press Herald she was standing by her account of the events and that she decided to make her story public as part of “a very important healing process.”

“I was thinking this man may become my governor and I will have to look at him for how many years to come,” Hayward said.

Hayward said she took her attorney’s advice on accepting the settlement amount. “I was a new single mom at the time,” she said. But she called the meeting with Moody a life-changing event.

“It took me years to recover,” Hayward said, noting she ended up losing her apartment and her car. “I ended up driving a U-Haul to go live with my family four hours away (in Machias).”

Hayward said she was a registered Republican and supported President Trump, but said that she would be voting for Moody’s Democratic opponent, Maine Attorney General Mills, on Nov. 6.

In a telephone interview Friday, Moody said he wouldn’t break the non-disclosure agreement.

“We’ve been involved in nondisclosure agreements for 30 or 40 years,” he said. “We’ve honored every one that we’ve engaged in and we will honor this one. Not everybody is honoring this one, but we have to, it’s our integrity, our credibility within the business community and me personally my own personal morals and ethics.”

Moody pointed out that part of the settlement agreement included Hayward withdrawing the discrimination complaint against the company.

“And that’s really what happened and it was just a few weeks ago that this thing surfaced,” Moody said. “It just begs the question, ‘Who’s driving this?’ The motives and if you look at the bigger picture – it just begs the question, three weeks before the election this comes out, it just really points to politics, I hate to say it but that’s just what it looks like.”

MOODY CAMPAIGN RESPONDS

In a news conference later Friday afternoon, Moody also declined to address specifics of the complaint but said the only time the company has terminated a worker is for performance issues. He also said that under the company’s policy, he alone does not make firing decisions, and several people are involved.

Moody’s campaign issued a statement Friday blasting the report and calling the 2006 allegations by Hayward “false.”

“Despite thorough research into Moody’s background and a full examination by the Maine media for many years, the New York Times is now seeking to discredit him,” said Lauren LePage, a spokeswoman for Moody. “Democratic Party operatives and allies have sought to spread the story for months knowing Moody was, and is, in a strong position to win.”

The Press Herald learned of the complaint in early September and contacted Hayward. She confirmed that she was the complainant but declined to be interviewed, citing the settlement agreement. The newspaper also contacted Moody, who also cited the settlement agreement and said he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the complaint.

He said the decision to settle the complaint was made by his insurance company’s attorney and that he treats all women with respect.

The Press Herald also filed a Freedom of Access Act request for additional records at the Maine Human Rights Commission and found that no other complaints have been filed against Moody or his businesses. In addition, the newspaper interviewed two attorneys who specialize in employment law and have represented both workers and employers in discrimination cases before the Maine commission.

Both attorneys said having a single complaint that was settled out of court over a 40-year history of doing business in Maine was an unusually clean record for a company that now has 200 workers.

OTHER FEMALE EMPLOYEES

The Press Herald elected not to publish a story about the complaint in September because it was unable to gather important details about the allegation and because Hayward refused to speak to a reporter.

“We had one 12-year-old complaint that was later withdrawn and a former worker who refused to speak with us,” Executive Editor Cliff Schechtman said. “It didn’t rise to our standards for publication.”

The records request by the Press Herald also disclosed that Hayward’s complaint was first obtained by Simon Thompson, a Portland resident and political operative who works for Democrats. In 2016, Thompson served as Hillary Clinton’s state organizing director for Maine. This year he served as the campaign manager for Lucas St. Clair, a Democratic candidate who was running for the party’s nomination to be its challenger to 2nd District Rep. Bruce Poliquin. St. Clair lost in the primary to state Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston.

The commission’s records show that the Bangor Daily News, WMTW-TV and The Bollard, a Portland weekly, also have requested the complaint file. The Bangor newspaper and WMTW did not report the story. The Bollard included the complaint but did not identify Hayward in a broader story about Moody published on Oct. 2.

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Moody and his campaign have pointed out that 25 of his employees are women.

“Eighteen of these women have children and family responsibilities. Four of these women were pregnant and gave birth while employed by Moody’s or are pregnant today,” Brent Littlefield, a political consultant working for Moody, wrote in an email. Another female employee, who was working at Moody’s during the same period as Hayward, also has contested the allegations of discrimination.

“It’s crazy, it’s not who Shawn is as a person,” said Debbie Gale, who has worked for Moody for 20 years. “It’s ridiculous. It’s not true … women are respected here, men are respected here. If someone is no longer here it is because they have not done their job.”

On Friday, Hayward said she doesn’t hold any animosity toward any of the people she formerly worked with.

“Being truthfully truthful, it is really sad,” Hayward said. “Because I really loved that job, Shawn has some really good people working for him and Shawn treated all of us like family, so that’s what made it so difficult.”

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

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