Sunday 23 October 2016

Yoga guru to pay €6m to advisor he sexually harassed

Kim Ripoll

Published 28/01/2016 | 02:30

The headquarters of Bikram Yoga in Los Angeles, California (Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)
The headquarters of Bikram Yoga in Los Angeles, California (Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

The founder of Bikram yoga has been ordered to pay nearly $6.5m (€6m) to his former legal adviser who said he sexually harassed and sacked her for investigating a rape claim.

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The punitive damages are in addition to the $924,000 (€850,000) compensation that Bikram Choudhury must pay to Minakshi "Miki" Jafa-Bodden, bringing the total award to about $7.4m (€6.8m). "This is a good day for women," Ms Jafa-Bodden said after the Los Angeles jury's verdict.

Choudhury's lawyer, Robert Tafoya, did not return calls for comment.

Ms Jafa-Bodden was head of legal and international affairs at Choudhury's LA yoga school from spring 2011 until March 2013, when she said she was abruptly sacked from her six-figure-salary position for refusing to cover up a rape allegation.

"Jafa-Bodden faced retaliation and intimidation when she refused to stay silent about witnessing illegal behaviour," her lawyer, Mark Quigley, said.

Ms Jafa-Bodden also said Choudhury sexually harassed and inappropriately touched her, and tried to get her to stay with him in a hotel suite.

Choudhury (69) has built an empire around Bikram yoga, a rigorous, 90-minute routine performed in a room that can reach more than 38°C. The technique is taught at more than 650 studios worldwide and has drawn a throng of devoted followers, including celebrities.

Choudhury claims he is now nearly bankrupt.

Ms Jafa-Bodden's wrongful termination action is separate from sexual assault lawsuits filed by six other women, five of whom accuse Choudhury of raping them. One of the lawsuits is in the process of being settled while the rest are set for trial later this year.

Choudhury's lawyers have said he never sexually assaulted any of the women suing him and that prosecutors had declined to bring charges in their cases.

But Mary Shea, one of the lawyers representing the women, said prosecutors never investigated the claims and just because charges were not filed did not mean the women were not telling the truth.

Irish Independent

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