PORTLAND, Maine (AP) The campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Shawn Moody angrily denounced suggestions he mistreated an employee who brought a sexual discrimination complaint after her firing after she gave birth.

The Maine GOP on Friday called a New York Times report about a $20,000 settlement paid to the former employee a "smear" against Moody just weeks before Election Day.

The story recounts single mother Jill Hayward's ordeal after being fired from Moody's Collision Centers. Her 2006 complaint to the Maine Human Rights Commission said Moody went to her Biddeford apartment to fire her. The complaint was withdrawn after Moody's insurer settled.

Moody told the newspaper that terms of the settlement prevented him from discussing it. But he said he always treated employees, men and women, with respect.

"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. "It is just outrageous to even suggest my business does not have opportunities for women."

Requests for comment from The Associated Press were not immediately answered by Moody and Hayward.

Moody and Democratic Attorney General Janet Mills are in a tight race for governor. Independents Terry Hayes and Alan Caron are also running for governor.