A former personal attorney for a yoga guru was fired for complaining about sexual harassment in the workplace and expressing concerns about mounting litigation, her attorney told a jury Tuesday, but a lawyer for the yoga teacher said the woman lost her job because she wasn’t licensed to practice in California.
The lawyers gave the different view of Minakshi Jafa-Bodden’s time with Bikram’s Yoga College of India during opening statements in the Los Angeles Superior Court trial of her lawsuit against the school and its founder, 69-year- old Bikram Choudhury.
According to plaintiff’s attorney Mark Quigley, Jafa-Bodden is a native of India who had practiced law internationally after obtaining her law degree in Great Britain. An acquaintance of Choudhury recommended that he use her services and the yoga teacher sponsored her so she could work in the United States in a capacity that did not require her to be licensed, Quigley said.
“They knew she was not licensed in California,” Quigley said.
Jafa-Bodden began working for Choudury in March 2011 and she initially received praise for her work, Quigley said. But after she began investigating lawsuits against the company, including one by a black employee complaining of discrimination, Jafa-Bodden began to experience a backlash from Choudhury, Quigley said.
“Mind your own business, get your nose out of it,” Jafa-Bodden was told, according to Quigley.
The tension between Jafa-Bodden and her boss worsened when she also began complaining about the treatment of women in the yoga college workplace, according to Quigley, who said they were routinely called derogatory names. Choudhury also would have sex with yoga college trainees and once urinated in front of Jafa-Bodden, Quigley alleged.
“I’ll have you deported, I’ll have you killed,” Choudhury warned Jafa- Bodden, according to Quigley, who described Choudhury as someone who boasted he was the world’s most successful businessman.
Choudhury also claimed his yoga methods could cure people of such diseases as cancer and diabetes and that President Richard Nixon arranged for him to receive a visa in the 1970s so that he could come to the U.S. and treat the nation’s chief executive, Quigley said.
Former White House lawyer Petra Starke, who worked for Choudhury after Jafa-Bodden was fired in March 2013, had some of the same experiences as the plaintiff and also lost her job, Quigley said.
Jafa-Bodden is financially strapped and lives in a modest apartment with her daughter, Quigley said. She is afraid to return to India because she believes her life might be in danger there because of her lawsuit against Choudhury, who also is a native of that country, he said.
But attorney Robert Tafoya, on behalf of Choudhury, said Jafa-Bodden’s case is built on “smoke and mirrors” in which she and her lawyers “take a kernel of truth and turn it into something it is not.”
Jafa-Bodden saw Choudhury urinate because she walked into the restroom in his suite without his permission, Tafoya said.
Tafoya said Choudhury believed Jafa-Bodden was licensed to practice in California and that she never led him to believe otherwise. He also said that although his client often uses bad language and is not a “saint,” Choudhury’s character was nonetheless maligned by Quigley during the attorney’s opening statement.
“This is not the monster Mr. Quigley would like you to believe he is,” Tafoya said.
Choudhury lived the American dream and started his business in a garage, Tafoya said.
— Wire reports
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: