LOS ANGELES (CNS) – A woman who claims a Los Angeles Fire Department battalion chief sexually harassed her and other young women working for a disaster relief charity doing coronavirus testing was ordered Wednesday to arbitrate the part of her case against the firefighter.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Upinder Kalra’s ruling comes five months after Judge Lawrence Riff, who previously presided over plaintiff Sarena Serrano’s case, directed her to arbitrate the portions of her lawsuit against Community Organized Relief Effort and its CEO, Ann Young Lee.
Serrano brought her suit last Sept. 8 against CORE, Lee, the city of Los Angeles and LAFD Battalion Chief Jaime Lesinski, alleging sexual harassment, gender violence, sexual battery, aiding and abetting sexual harassment, retaliation, failure to prevent harassment and wrongful termination.
Lee is co-founder of CORE along with actor Sean Penn, who is not a defendant.
In his January ruling, Riff said he was not convinced by Serrano’s assertions that she did not see any wording in her employment agreement explaining that she was giving up her right to a jury trial of any work-related disputes.
There is additionally no evidence that Serrano was prevented from asking questions about the meaning of the arbitration or that she asked to take a few days to think about the agreement to consult with an attorney, Riff wrote.
In Wednesday’s ruling, Kalra said that although Lesinski was not employed by CORE or a signer of the arbitration agreement, “it is evident from the complaint that plaintiff’s claims against (Lesinski) arise out of her employment with Core and (Lesinski’s) conduct during his alleged agency relationship with CORE.”
Lesinski worked at CORE’s COVID testing site at Dodger Stadium from June through August 2020 and oversaw, managed and directed the operations in coordination with Lee, according to the suit.
The suit alleges that Serrano and other young women who worked daily with Lesinski were touched by him on their lower backs and buttocks without consent, subjected to inappropriate sexual comments about their sexual organs and forced to hear sexually demeaning comments about them.
Lee and other CORE managers knew or should have known about Lesinski’s behavior by June 2020, the suit alleges. Serrano asked her supervisor for a paid day off after having a mental breakdown upon learning that Lee allegedly was aware of Lesinski’s conduct for months and had done nothing to correct it, but she was told she could only have unpaid time off, the suit states.
Serrano was fired in October 2020 for unspecified “unprofessional behavior,” according to the suit.