Labor MP unfairly fired senior adviser who called him a ‘first-class idiot’

Khalid Mahmood – Darren Quinton/Birmingham Mail

A Labor MP wrongfully fired a senior adviser and ex-girlfriend after she called him a “first-class idiot” in an email with Sir Keir Starmer copied, a labor court ruled.

Khalid Mahmood fired Elaina Cohen, his longtime publicist, after she sent him a series of messages accusing him of being “bullying”, “grudging” and an “insecure and dishonest woman”.

The former shadow minister – a lawmaker for more than 20 years – fired Cohen, whom he has dated for several years, for disrespecting and trying to intimidate him.

But the court ruled that by overseeing the disciplinary process and deciding to fire her, the 61-year-old had treated her unfairly.

In addition, the deputy’s decision to stop speaking to her after she accused one of his parliamentary staff members of being involved in illegal activities made her feel isolated, the panel ruled.

Compensation may be reduced due to behavior

He will now have to pay compensation, although the amount could be reduced due to her behavior, the court said.

The central London audience was told that Cohen began working for Birmingham MP Perry Barr in his House of Commons office in 2003.

They entered a “romantic relationship” shortly afterwards, which ended in 2005, according to the panel.

After the split, Cohen continued to work for Mahmood, but their relationship became increasingly “dysfunctional”.

On October 11, 2020, the court heard that the pair spent an afternoon “dueling” via email.

As part of that exchange, Mahmood copied Sir Keir, the Labor leader, in an email that referenced his “first-class idiot” comment.

The following month after the death of the deputy’s father-in-law, Cohen sent him a “crude and insensitive” email, the audience was informed, concluding with the remark “I am daily amazed by the shenanigans in the parliamentary office”.

Mahmood then launched formal disciplinary action against Cohen, bringing five charges against her, including her emails, which led to him firing her in January 2021.

Mrs. Cohen took him to court and won his wrongful termination claims related to the lawsuit and having suffered a loss due to his complaint.

Discrimination and harassment complaints rejected

However, her allegations of religious discrimination and harassment – she was the only Jewish woman on Mahmood’s team – were rejected.

The panel concluded that while his actions may have represented serious misconduct, the manner in which his dismissal was carried out was unfair.

“Mr Mahmood was the whistleblower, chaired the investigation meeting, chaired the disciplinary hearing and made the decision to dismiss and also heard the appeal.

“We concluded that not having at least one other decision maker as part of this overall process took him out of the reach of reasonable answers.”

Furthermore, the decision to discontinue full contact with her following her January 2020 allegations was wrong, the court concluded.

“There was some need for communication,” the panel said. “By his own admission, he had stopped talking to her on the phone. He had no contact with her through Zoom.

“For the most part, he cut off communication with her. The Court considers that the fact that he did not is partially attributable to the protected disclosures.”

A hearing to determine Cohen’s compensation will be held at a later date.

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