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Bikram yoga founder fined $924k in sexual harassment suit: Media

The founder of the Bikram yoga practice was ordered to pay $924,500 on Monday to a former legal adviser who said she was fired for investigating sexual misconduct charges against her employer

world Updated: Jan 26, 2016 14:15 IST
Bikram Choudhury,Bikram Yoga,Sexual harassment
Indian-American Bikram Choudhury is the founder of the Yoga College of India.(AP File Photo)

Founder of the Bikram yoga, Bikram Choudhury was ordered to pay USD 924,500 on Monday to a former legal adviser who said she was fired for investigating sexual misconduct charges against him, media reported.

Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, the former personal attorney of the celebrity yoga guru, was awarded compensatory damages by a Los Angeles jury for claims of discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination and of suffering sexual harassment herself, The Los Angeles Times reported.

During the trial, Choudhury had dismissed the accusations as “big lies” and said Jafa-Bodden was let go because she did not have a license to practice law in the United States, the Times and other media reported. “I don’t do that… I don’t have to,” the 69-year-old apparently testified.

The jury found that Choudhury acted with malice, oppression and fraud — findings that allowed Minakshi to seek punitive damages. Minakshi claimed that Choudhury persuaded her to leave her native India to work for him as his general counsel in 2011. During her employment, she alleged, Choudhury repeatedly sexually harassed her and subjected her to obscene comments. Other allegations included harassment, misconduct and rape of one of his female students.

“This verdict sends an important message, that speaking out when you see signs of sexual abuse is the right thing to do,” Minakshi’s lawyers said.

The lawsuit is one of multiple cases of alleged sexual assault filed against Choudhury, who built a yoga empire in the US after moving to California in 1971. Choudhury gained millions of followers through his style of yoga, which consists of a series of 26 poses, done over 90 minutes in a room heated to 104 degrees. Choudhury also published a book in 1979 with descriptions, photographs and drawings of his signature postures and two breathing exercises yoga sequence.

Six other women in recent years have sued Choudhury, alleging that he sexually assaulted or harassed them.

First Published: Jan 26, 2016 13:40 IST