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Bikram Choudhury, founder of his eponymous hot yoga empire, has been ordered to pay a former employee $7.4 million for retaliation, wrongful termination, and sexual harassment. Minakshi "Miki" Jafa-Bodden sued Choudhury, claiming she was fired for refusing to cover up an investigation into another woman's rape allegation against the guru.
The once ubiquitous Bikram yoga brand has been rocked by controversy in recent years. Numerous profiles have highlighted claims of harassment and abuse. And Jafa-Bodden's was just one of six lawsuits against Choudhury, each accusing him of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Jafa-Bodden, an attorney herself and Choudhury's former legal advisor, claims that women in his presence -- clients and employees -- were subjected to a "hyper-sexualized" and "degrading" environment, were ordered to brush his hair and give him massages, were referred to as "f***ing bitches," "fat bitches," and "stupid bitches."
Her lawsuit, all 40 pages of it, is a laundry list of abuses and slurs, and well worth reading. Witnesses also accuse Choudhury of saying, "I should rape more girls, it's good for business," "AIDS is caused by gays ... but these f***ing a**hole guys love me," and if Hitler "was more efficient, all these f***ing Jews would be finished."
Choudhury claimed he was innocent in an interview last year. "I want to show you," he told CNN, "tell the truth to the world, that I never assaulted them." The guru claimed he would never need to force women to have sex. "Women like me. Women love me," he said. "So if I really wanted to involve the women, I don't have to assault the women."
While other claims of sexual misconduct remain pending, the jury in Jafa-Bodden's employment lawsuit wasn't buying it. A Los Angeles Superior Court ordered Choudhury to pay Jafa-Bodden $6,471,878 in punitive damages and $924,000 in compensatory damages.
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