Bikram Choudhury, the founder of hot yoga, has been ordered to pay over $7 million to his former legal adviser who accused him of sexually harassing and abruptly firing her after she refused to cover up an investigation into a rape allegation against him. Choudhury is known for his Bikram yoga, a 90-minute workout in rooms heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit.
A Los Angeles jury told Choudhury Tuesday to pay punitive damages of $6.5 million in addition to $924,000 he was ordered to pay as compensation in the same case Monday, the Associated Press (AP) reported. This brings the total damages to over $7 million.
The plaintiff, Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, had filed a lawsuit in 2013 for breach of contract and wrongful termination. In the lawsuit, she said that Choudhury "created a hypersexual, offensive and degrading environment for women by, among other things, demanding that female staffers brush his hair and give him massages" and made "outrageous and offensive comments" about Jewish people, African-Americans and gays, among others.
Jafa-Bodden also accused Choudhury of inappropriately touching her and trying to make her stay with him in a hotel suite. She was head of legal and international affairs at Choudhury's Los Angeles yoga school between 2011 and 2013.
"Jafa-Bodden faced retaliation and intimidation when she refused to stay silent about witnessing illegal behavior," Mark Quigley, Jaffa-Bodden’s lawyer, said in a statement, according to AP. Choudhury has denied allegations made by Jafa-Bodden and maintained that he fired her because she did not have a license to practice law in the U.S.
Choudhury contends that he is now almost bankrupt. Choudhury is reportedly worth $75 million and drawing in an annual salary of $10 million.
His hot yoga is now taught at over 650 studios across the world. Last October, Choudhury lost a lawsuit to copyright the yoga poses. The U.S. Copyright Office said that health-related yoga could not be copyrighted.