Women staff reject punitive confidentiality contract and party pursues them legally
Labour tried to force two women staff to sign secrecy contracts to protect a ‘senior official’ they accused of sexually harassing them – and pursued them legally after they refused.
Laura Murray and Georgie Robertson complained formally to the party just before Keir Starmer became leader and the official was briefly suspended but then reinstated after denying the allegations, with Labour officials pressuring Robertson and Murray to withdraw their complaints.
The party, which had promised the pair to keep their complaints confidential because they feared retaliation, promptly informed the official in question and the pair felt forced to leave the party to avoid retaliation and further harassment.
Ms Robertson told the BBC that:
It was months of very intimidating and aggressive conduct from the party. It felt like a slap in the face and just being completely thrown under the bus.
Ms Murray said she had felt powerless to take further action despite further intimidation by the reinstated official, which included falsely telling others in the office that Ms Robertson was sleeping with a married colleague:
When he came back to work, I felt like he was just trying to get revenge against me, and I felt completely disempowered to do anything about it.
The pair eventually lodged formal complaints despite their misgivings about Labour’s seriousness in dealing with the issue and tried to agree an exit route with the party, but resigned after Labour lawyers tried to force them to sign the secrecy contracts, because it
could encourage the party to use those agreements in future with other women who’d been harassed.
Their lawyer Mark Stephens told the BBC that the contracts violated equality laws and the party’s own policies, adding that they would also have imposed liability for any legal costs the party incurred over the leaked Labour report on misconduct by right-wing staffers, which it is accusing them of leaking despite a wide range of people having access to it. He added:
No person in their right mind would trust them not to treat that indemnity as a means of oppression. As a consequence of that, I think we’ve seen an attempt at abuse by the Labour Party in the way that they have dealt with this.
Labour claimed it takes all complaints of sexual harassment ‘extremely seriously’. Both women have now left politics completely.
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