AUGUSTA — A local recycling business might have discriminated against one of its employees when its owner made crude, degrading jokes about the man’s sexuality and intelligence, a state agency found Monday.

In a complaint filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission, the man, Andre Vanpoelvoorde of Augusta, claimed that the owner of Neighborhood Redemption Center, a business on West River Road, made comments suggesting that he was gay and a “(expletive) moron.”

The stress resulting from those comments led to health problems for Vanpoelvoorde, which led to him being effectively terminated from his job, he alleged in the complaint.

Representatives for Neighborhood Redemption denied those allegations, arguing that Vanpoelvoorde never demonstrated an ability to perform his job independently, according to a report produced by an investigator for the Maine Human Rights Commission. They also characterized the comments as “gallows humor,” not meant to single him out.

On Monday, the five members of the human rights panel unanimously found reasonable grounds to believe one of Vanpoelvoorde’s complaints: that the business discriminated “on the basis of his sex/sexual orientation and disability by subjecting him to a hostile work environment, including by constructively discharging him.”

The Maine Human Rights Commission is now required to invite both sides together to see if they can resolve their dispute. If the parties can’t come to an agreement, they’ll then have the opportunity to file a formal legal complaint.

Charles Eichacker can be contacted at 621-5642 or at:

[email protected]