A woman who claims a fire department battalion chief sexually harassed her and other young women working for the disaster relief charity Community Organized Relief Effort was ordered Wednesday to have an arbitrator rather than a jury decide the portion of her suit against the organization.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lawrence P. Riff said he was not convinced by plaintiff Sarena 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.

“Plaintiff does not contend that she has difficulty understanding or reading English,” Riff wrote. “She had ample opportunity to read and review the arbitration agreement. There is no evidence that she asked any person to confirm her understanding of the arbitration provision.”

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.

Serrano brought her suit Sept. 8 against CORE, its CEO Ann Young Lee, the city of Los Angeles and Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Jaime Lesinski. The arbitration order also pertains to the portion of the case against Lee. A case management conference was scheduled for March 24 on the rest of the suit, which alleges 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 previous court papers, CORE lawyers — who include Britney Spears attorney Mathew Rosengart — state that Serrano was hired June 16, 2020, and a week later submitted by email an electronically signed copy of her employment contract in which she agreed that all disputes would be subject to arbitration.

Serrano submitted a sworn declaration in opposition to the motion to compel arbitration.

“When I signed (my employment agreement), I did not realize I was giving up my right to a jury trial or (to) sue in court,” Serrano says. “There is no language in the (agreement) that says that. I was not given an opportunity to talk to a lawyer about this provision in the (agreement), nor did CORE ever explain to me what this meant.”

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 was allegedly 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.

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