The wife of a yoga guru Wednesday defended her husband’s use of what traditionally are considered derogatory words against women, saying he reserves such remarks for training sessions and that the terms should not be taken at face value.
“He’s a comedian, he says many things,” Rajashree Choudhury, wife of Bikram Yoga founder Bikram Choudhury, told a Los Angeles Superior Court jury.
She also said people have come to expect her husband to address them in a certain way while learning his specialized “hot yoga” methods, in which classes are conducted in rooms that sometimes surpass 100 degrees.
“Everybody knows how he speaks … people clap when he speaks like that,” she said.
The defendant’s 50-year-old spouse was the first witness called by the plaintiff’s attorneys in trial of lawyer Minakshi Jafa-Bodden’s sexual harassment suit against Choudhury and his West Los Angeles-based Yoga College of India.
Jafa-Bodden, who sued in June 2013, alleges she was fired three months earlier after complaining about the treatment of women in the Bikram workplace and for his alleged inappropriate conduct toward her.
Choudhury’s lawyers maintain Jafa-Bodden was fired because she did not tell them she was not licensed to practice law in California.
Jafa-Bodden is a native of India who had practiced law internationally after obtaining her law degree in Great Britain. Choudhury hired her in 2011 to handle legal matters for him and took steps to enable her to work in the U.S., according to plaintiff’s attorney Mark Quigley.
Under repeated questioning by Quigley, Rajashree Choudhury testified that while she sometimes takes issue with her husband’s remarks, she believes he is free to conduct business the way he has for about 50 years.
“Your husband does what he wants to do, right?,” Quigley asked the woman, who is Bikram Yoga’s vice president.
“Definitely he’s the boss in his business, he makes the rules, yes,” she replied.
Shown an enlarged copy of the Bikram code of ethics on a courtroom screen, Rasjashree Choudhury said she was aware some employees were unhappy, including a black Bikram worker who alleged discrimination. She said she relied on her assistant to forward her those emails that might need her attention and that as a result, she did not necessarily know about all employee complaints.
Rajashree Choudhury said she criticized her husband for making unflattering remarks about some men and women in the workplace who he believed weighed too much because of poor eating and exercising habits.
“No, I don’t like it, because I gain weight, too,” she said.
She said she also told her husband she was displeased when he told a magazine interviewer that women who are refused sex with him want to commit suicide.
“I talked to him, I didn’t like that,” she said.
The witness appeared surprised when Quigley named some of the other female Bikram employees who have made complaints of sexual misconduct against her husband. She also said she never personally heard him threaten a federal judge who ruled against him in a Bikram yoga copyright claim, an allegation Jafa-Bodden made in her lawsuit.
— Wire reports
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