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Bikram yoga founder Bikram Choudhury has been ordered to pay over $7 million to a former employee who said he sexually harassed her and wrongfully fired her for investigating another woman’s rape allegation, The Associated Press reports.
A Los Angeles jury ordered the hot yoga pioneer to pay $6.5 million in punitive damages Tuesday in the wrongful termination lawsuit, in addition to $924,000 in compensatory damages he was ordered to pay earlier this week.
The woman, Minakshi “Miki” Jafa-Bodden, said Choudhury sexually harassed and inappropriately touched her and tried to get her to stay with him in a hotel suite. She also said she was fired from her position as head of legal and international affairs at Choudhury’s Los Angeles yoga school in 2013 for refusing to cover up an investigation into another woman’s rape allegation. “This is a good day for women,” Jafa-Bodden said in a statement following the verdict.
Six other women have filed sexual assault lawsuits against Choudhury, five of whom have accused Choudhury of rape. One of those lawsuits is in the process of being settled while the rest are set for trial later this year, according to the AP. Choudhury’s attorneys have said he never sexually assaulted any of the women suing him and that prosecutors had declined to bring charges in their cases.
Last October, Choudhury suffered another legal loss when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California affirmed a previous ruling by a federal district court that his sequence of 26 yoga poses and two breathing exercises is not entitled to copyright protection.