Bikram Yoga Founder Ordered to Pay $7 Million For Sexually Harassing Employee

Bikram Choudhury’s reputation is taking quite the hit, but that is nothing compared to the blow his bank account is about to suffer.  Ms. Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, is one of seven women to level accusations against Mr. Choudhury related to his sexual misconduct.  She is the former Head of Legal and International Affairs, and the former general counsel to Mr. Choudhury’s yoga college of India, where she worked between 2011 and 2013.  While her allegations did not result in any criminal charges being filed against Mr. Choudhury, Ms. Jafa-Bodden helped her own cause immeasurably and quickly retained an employment attorney.

A civil claim was immediately filed.  Ms. Jafa-Bodden claimed that she was subjected to years of sexual harassment by Mr. Choudhury, and that when she began to investigate another woman’s sexual harassment and rape allegations against him, he “abruptly and unlawfully terminated” her employment in retaliation.  As an employee within the state of California, Ms. Jafa-Bodden enjoys the protections of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, as well as numerous protections against whistleblowing or retaliation, up to and including termination.  She and her employment attorney acted on these protections, and Mr. Choudhury’s actions finally caught up with him.

The jury agreed with Ms. Jafa-Bodden to the tune of $924,000, and on Monday they returned having found that she was sexually harassed, subjected to obscene comments about women, and subsequently wrongfully terminated in retaliation for her actions.  However, that award consisted only of compensatory damages for the ordeal, or damages that are intended to compensate for physical or psychological injury.  Tuesday brought the big blow, as the jury reconvened and ordered an additional $6.47 million in punitive damages to be paid to Ms. Jafa-Bodden.

“I want to thank my trial team for standing by be during this fight against a very rich, powerful and dangerous man,” Ms. Jafa-Bodden said.  She wasn’t wrong.  Mr. Choudhury, who is originally from Kolkata, India, came to California in 1971 where he quickly found stateside fame in yoga.  His unabashed bragging included claims about clients ranging from Raquel Welch to Quincy Jones, even Richard Nixon.  The man was rich, he was certainly powerful, and until this week he had escaped any repercussions for his behavior.

Finding the right employment lawyer, wrongful termination, or whistleblowing attorney in Los Angeles is crucial.  Both sexual harassment and retaliation in the workplace are illegal, and employees are thoroughly protected in the state of California.  At Stephen Danz & Associates, we have the experience necessary to see that these rights are recognized, and victims are vindicated whether or not you face problems such as having an Sexually Harassing Employee.  If you feel that you have been subjected to harassment or retaliation in the workplace, contact the Los Angeles employment law attorneys at Stephen Danz & Associates for a free consultation to discuss your circumstances and options.