For decades Bikram enlisted, taught and required from individual, dedicated yoga practitioners hundreds of free instructional or tutorial hours and several thousands of dollars for the right to teach his style of hot yoga and use his name on or in connection with their respective studios. Commercially, Bikram’s name was viewed as the gold standard of hot yoga, and, for those who paid for license to use his name, it has been a near guarantee of instant and dedicated yoga studio clientele. So what are licensee, studio owners to do now that Bikram has been thoroughly and completely disgraced as a misogynist and serial sex harasser and assailant?
For those who haven’t followed the many stories, Bikram has been accused of numerous instances of sexual harassment and assault by several former yoga students, instructors and, most notably, his own former lawyer, Minakshi Jafa-Bodden. Jafa-Bodden sued for sexual harassment and wrongful termination. In addition to pervasive sexual harassment, Jafa-Bodden claimed wrongful termination stemming from Bikram terminating her after she was hit with a deposition subpoena in another sex harassment case and thereafter made it known she would not lie or perjure herself if called to testify under oath (because presumably the claims of harassment or assault in the other case also were true).
In January 2016, a Los Angeles jury returned a verdict in her favor and awarded Jafa-Bodden nearly $1 million in compensatory damages, as well as clear message-sending $6.4 million in punitive damages (though the punitives have since been reduced to approximately $4 million). There are multiple other sexual harassment and assault cases still pending against Bikram, and instead of participating in those actions or otherwise defending himself, he fled the United States and refuses to return.
On December 13, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Borenstein ordered that because Bikram fled the country in obvious attempt to avoid judgment enforcement, ownership of Bikram’s yoga college, as well as income therefrom, must be transferred to Jafa-Bodden in satisfaction of her judgment.
Those who trained, paid Bikram’s license fees, and use his name in connection with a yoga or fitness studio should be outraged. After spending countless hours and dollars to use what once was the name in hot yoga, which remains extremely popular and widely practiced, licensee-owners now must choose between changing the name of their businesses or risk being perceived as either ignorant of significant current events or passively supportive of Bikram’s outrageous and disgraceful conduct.
The solution, perhaps: “Jafa-Bodden Hot Yoga.” Why not? Tongue-and-cheek? Yes. However, not only does she now own Bikram’s yoga college, but more important she had the strength of character to stick to the truth and see the matter through.
Read full article on LinkedIn.