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Withers wins application brought against Accenture in discrimination and unfair dismissal claim

3 May 2024 | Applicable law: England and Wales | 2 minute read

Our London employment team enjoyed huge success last month in the employment tribunal, securing a deposit order for Peter Lacy, Accenture’s former Chief Responsibility Officer and Global Sustainability Services Lead and member of its global management committee. Accenture contested the application in a case that has attracted significant press coverage.

Mr Lacy, a renowned global leader in sustainability, is challenging the termination of his employment on grounds of discrimination, among other claims, in proceedings brought against Accenture and senior executives Julie Sweet (Chief Executive Officer), Ellyn Shook (Chief Leadership & Human Resources Officer), Bhaskar Ghosh (Chief Strategy Officer) and Samantha Clark (former Global Employee Relations Director).  Ahead of a final hearing, Mr Lacy brought an application to strike-out Accenture's defence to his claim for unfair dismissal, or in the alternative for a deposit order in respect of the same, on the basis it enjoys no (or little) reasonable prospect of success.  

Although Accenture argued Mr Lacy's application did not meet the high threshold necessary for a strike-out or deposit order to be awarded, the tribunal disagreed.  The employment judge concluded that he had to take Accenture's case at its highest and could not be sure what evidence might ultimately be called at a final hearing, so could not order strike-out. However, he was satisfied the defence had little reasonable prospects of success – going so far as to say he had even "seriously considered" a strike-out, notwithstanding how exceptional such a ruling would be.  Accenture was ordered to pay the maximum deposit of £1,000 as a condition of continuing to advance that aspect of their defence.  

"The impact of a deposit order should not be underestimated.  It is recognised as a particularly strong signal that a defence is flawed, and its purpose is to essentially enable a party to litigation to avoid incurring cost, time and anxiety in dealing with a point advanced by the opposing party in litigation which a tribunal has decided, on its merits, is weak," says Employment partner James Hockin. 

A £1,000 deposit in and of itself is clearly not a suitable deterrent for large corporations, but importantly such an order has the effect of putting a defendant company at cost risks if they choose to pursue that element of their defence – which, in the ordinarily cost-neutral employment tribunals, is highly significant and unusual. 

James Hockin, Lana Armstrong and Andrew Fremlin-Key represent Peter Lacy, instructing James Laddie KC and Nathan Roberts of Matrix Chambers.

This document (and any information accessed through links in this document) is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.


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