Adventist Health Sonora seeks private arbitration of retaliation claims involving president

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Adventist Health Sonora (Calif.) wants a lawsuit filed by its philanthropy officer alleging workplace discrimination and retaliation to be privately arbitrated, according to The Union Democrat.

Nichole Coleman, Adventist Health Sonora's philanthropy officer, filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the hospital's president, Michelle Fuentes, of pressuring her to quit a Sonora city committee on social equity or face a job change at the hospital. The lawsuit, which alleges workplace discrimination and retaliation, claimed Ms. Fuentes told Ms. Coleman members of the community sought her resignation from either her role at the hospital or in the committee. 

In a May 7 court filing cited by The Union Democrat, attorneys representing Adventist Health sought to move the litigation outside of court through arbitration governed by her employment contract. 

Ms. Coleman waived her contractual right to arbitration, but arbitration is only waivable if both sides agree to it. Adventist Health Sonora said the hospital has been committed to pursuing arbitration and the motion "is made on the grounds that plaintiff signed an agreement with AHSR containing a binding arbitration clause that governs the causes of action alleged in the complaint, and that AHSR is entitled to enforce the agreement," according to a public filing cited by The Union Democrat

Attorneys for Ms. Coleman told the newspaper the hospital's decision was disappointing. "Mrs. Coleman believes that holding AHS' conduct up to the light is the best way to achieve accountability," according to the statement. "While it is AHS' right to assert the arbitration agreement, Mrs. Coleman is disappointed that AHS has chosen to move this dispute to a confidential forum where public access and accountability are not available."

Becker's reached out to Adventist Health Sonora for comment. A spokesperson said because the lawsuit involves a personnel matter of a current employee at the hospital, Adventist Health thinks it best to not share details of the case. The Union Democrat reached out to Ms. Fuentes for comment, but she did not provide comment on the case.

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