Yoga guru to pay $1.3m in sexual harassment suit

The lawsuit is one of several filed against celebrity yoga guru Bikram Choudhury. Ms Minakshi Jafa-Bodden said she was fired for investigating sexual misconduct charges against her employer.
The lawsuit is one of several filed against celebrity yoga guru Bikram Choudhury. Ms Minakshi Jafa-Bodden said she was fired for investigating sexual misconduct charges against her employer.PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES

LOS ANGELES • The founder of the Bikram yoga practice was ordered to pay US$924,500 (S$1.3 million) to a former legal adviser, who said she was fired for investigating sexual misconduct charges against her employer, media reported.

Ms Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, the former personal attorney of celebrity yoga guru Bikram Choudhury, was on Monday awarded compensatory damages by a Los Angeles jury for claims of discrimination, retaliation and suffering sexual harassment herself, the Los Angeles Times (LAT) reported.

During the trial, Mr Choudhury, 69, had dismissed the accusations and said Ms Jafa-Bodden was let go because she did not have a licence to practise law in the United States, the LAT and other media reported.

Jurors deliberated for about a day before returning with a unanimous verdict in favour of Ms Jafa-Bodden, said Mr Mark Quigley, who, along with attorney Carla Minnard, represented Ms Jafa-Bodden.

"Jafa-Bodden faced retaliation and intimidation when she refused to stay silent about witnessing illegal behaviour," Mr Quigley was quoted by the LAT as saying. "This verdict sends an important message, that speaking out when you see signs of sexual abuse is the right thing to do."

Mr Choudhury's lawyer, Mr Robert Tafoya, declined to comment, the newspaper said.

Ms Jafa-Bodden's lawsuit is one of several filed against the eccentric guru, who built a yoga empire and amassed a fortune after moving to California in 1971 from India.

Mr Choudhury gained millions of followers through his style of yoga. He published a book in 1979 with descriptions, photographs and drawings of his signature 26 postures and two breathing exercises yoga sequence, which is practised in a room heated to 41 deg C.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline 'Yoga guru to pay $1.3m in sexual harassment suit'. Print Edition | Subscribe