Sexual Harassment Victim Wins $7.3M in Bikram Yoga Case & Examples of Hostile Work Environment and Quid Pro Quo Conduct
As our Award Winning New York Employment Law Attorney has discussed before, there are two different forms of sexual harassment: Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment (“QPQ”) and hostile work environment (“HWE”). In some egregious cases, the two types of cases can overlap. This blog post discusses a recent case.
Minakshi Jafa-Bodden v. Bikram Choudhury et al.
Ms. Jafa-Bodden, an attorney, filed a lawsuit alleging that, over the course of her employment with international yoga guru Bikram Choudhury, she was subjected to a multitude of employment violations by Choudhury including sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and, ultimately, wrongful termination.
Choudhury, the founder of a global yoga empire who championed the practice of hot room yoga, denied the allegations which included:
HWE: Referred often to women (including employees and staff) as “bitches”, “fucking bitches”, “fat bitches”, and “stupid bitches”;
HWE: Repeatedly made vulgar and offensive gestures including making a circle with one hand and inserting the finger of his other hand into the circle, simulating intercourse; licking his fingers, placing his fingers in the air and licking them, simulating oral sex;
HWE: Leered at female staffers, including staring at, and making comments about, their physical attributes (“that bitch is too skinny” and “she is too fat”.)
HWE: Made disparaging remarks about single mothers (including the Plaintiff, herself, for being a single mother);
QPQ & HWE: Created a hyper-sexualized, offensive and degrading environment for women by, among other things, demanding that female staffers brush his hair and give him massages;
QPQ: Repeatedly demanding that Plaintiff (and other female staffers) come to his bedroom at night, where he would sexually proposition her and attempt to touch her inappropriately.
Additionally, Ms. Jafa-Bodden alleged that she was terminated following her attempts to investigate other sexual harassment allegations of several female students by Choudhury. (Choudhury is also facing lawsuits alleging sexual assault and rape claims by six other women.)
After just one day of deliberations, a jury found in favor of Ms. Jafa-Bodden and awarded her $900,000 in compensatory damages and, on the following day, it awarded her an additional $6.4 million in punitive damages. The punitive damages reflect the severity of the case.
Sexual harassment is primarily about power and control. Choudhury abused his position to exert both over his employee (and possibly others) and egregiously overstepped his bounds. It is important for victims to take the courageous step forward and complain to prevent the current and other workplace abuses.
As the case against Choudhury evidences, sexual harassment can be incredibly costly – financially for defendants, and emotionally for everyone involved. Unfortunately, sexual harassment remains a serious problem in our society. Some conduct may even be criminal. If you believe that you have been the victim of sexual harassment, it is important to obtain counsel from an experienced employment law attorney from the outset. If you have any questions about sexual harassment or your rights in the workplace, contact our Award Winning NY Sexual Harassment Lawyer for a confidential consultation to learn how to fight back and protect yourself.
*LEARN YOUR RIGHTS * BECOME EMPOWERED *
*STOP SEXUAL HARASSMENT*
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