Bikram Choudhury, founder of the popular hot yoga method, was ordered on Monday to pay $924,500 to his former attorney who said she was fired for investigating claims of sexual harassment against him, the Associated Press reported.
Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, who served as the Head of Legal and International Affairs for Choudhury before she was fired in 2013, complained of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, unlawful termination and an abusive environment created by Choudhury at his global yoga empire.
A Los Angeles jury found that Choudhury, 69, subjected Jafa-Bodden to harassment and retaliation. They will decide whether to award her punitive damages on Tuesday, the AP reported.
Choudhury's hot yoga technique — taught at more than 600 studios across the world — consists of 26 poses and two breathing exercises performed in a room with temperatures reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit. In October 2015, he lost a court appeal seeking to copyright his poses. He also faces six lawsuits from women who claim that he sexually assaulted them.
In her lawsuit, Jafa-Bodden alleged that she was constantly subjected to "offensive conduct" by Choudhury. This conduct included calling women, including his female employees, "fat bitches," "fucking bitches," and "stupid bitches," making vulgar sexual gestures simulating sex and oral sex with his fingers, and making disparaging remarks about single mothers such as, "make sure we don't hire single women with kids in the future."
According to the complaint, Choudhury created a "hyper-sexualized" and "degrading" environment for women by demanding his female staffers to brush his hair and give him massages, leering at them, and making offensive comments such as, "that bitch is too skinny."
Jafa-Bodden alleged that she was often required to meet him in his hotel room at night and that on one occasion, he climbed into bed and patted the bedspread suggesting that she sit or lie down next to him.
The lawsuit also details Choudhury's offensive comments about homosexuals where he allegedly stated, "AIDS is caused by gays, it is the truth," and "these fucking asshole guys love me, they love Bikram." He allegedly discriminated against African Americans, saying, "these blacks just don't get my yoga," and also made "outrageous" remarks about Jewish people saying Hitler had the right idea but "he was just not efficient enough. If he was more efficient, all these fucking Jews would be finished."
Choudhury often brought his mistress to the workplace and "flaunted her" and also pressured Jafa-Bodden to buy a property in Hawaii for his mistress, the complaint said.
The attorney said that Choudhury forced her to stop her investigations into allegations of rape and sexual harassment at the enterprise, including claims by a female student that she was raped during teacher training, and a complaint by a female trainee who said she was mistreated by Choudhury's friend and a male trainee. The yoga guru allegedly told Jafa-Bodden "those boys didn't do nothing to that stupid girl."
The lawsuit details several instances where Choudhury subjected Jafa-Bodden to discrimination, harassment and retaliation. She also alleged that the hiring of Petra Starke was potentially unlawful and a conflict of interest as Starke was still working as the White House Counsel when Choudhury employed her.
According to the International Business Times, Choudhury's wife of 31 years, Rajashree Choudhury, filed for divorce last month.
Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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