Sixth sexual assault suit against Choudhury.
WASHINGTON, DC: Yet another woman has come forward alleging repeated sexual assault and financial and sexual coercion by Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram Yoga. The suit, by Jill Lawler of Canada, was filed on Friday in a California court. It’s the sixth such suit by different women, brought against Choudhury.
The latest alleged rape victim attended Choudhury’s training seminars for aspiring yoga teachers, reported Law360.
Lawler claims she spent $10,000 to join a Choudhury teacher training course in 2010, but was quickly the target of Choudhury’s requests for intimate massages and sexual advances. She alleges became financially dependent on Choudhury, who could decertify her at will and bar her from teaching Bikram Yoga, and suffered his sexual assaults for more than two years, according to her suit.
Lawler was 18 when she took the training course and says she first chalked up her discomfort over the massages to cultural differences, but then, she said, Choudhury put his hand down her pants in public, reported Law 360.
“You are so beautiful, I felt drunk while you were massaging me,” Choudhury said according to the suit. “I couldn’t control myself.”
Despite Choudhury’s apology, he soon asked her to massage him higher and higher on his thigh, eventually pushing her to touch him in a sexual manner, the report said.
“Felling that she had no choice, in her weakened, exhausted and sleep-deprived state, she gave in to defendant Bikram Choudhury’s physical and financial coercion,” the complaint said.
In another incident during training, he took Lawler up to his hotel room and allegedly made more lewd sexual advances. When she refused, the suit alleges he raped her. After the training classes, Lawler alleges Choudhury continued to seek her out for sex, and one occasion flew her out to Los Angeles before assaulting her, the report said.
Lawler later got a job with Choudhury’s school, Bikram’s Yoga College of India LP, and lived in India as an instructor. A few months after Choudhury allegedly visited the school and raped her again, Lawler claims she first learned of the first wave of lawsuit accusing the guru of sexual assault, prompting her to return home to Canada.
The victim’s lawyer, Mary Shea Hagebols of Shea Law Offices, also point out the threats made by Choudhury, who once told Lawler that “people who don’t listen to me, they die.”
Also on Friday, a California judge tentatively rejected Choudhury’s bid to escape a separate assault suit, ruling the teacher’s post-assault depression tolled the statute of limitations.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu wrote that the unnamed plaintiff had shown sufficient evidence that she was incapacitated after the alleged rape, entering into a serious depression, starting to drink and do drugs, and quitting her job, reported Law 360.
Last year, the website eBossWatch.com ranked Choudhury as the worst boss in America, according to Club Industry. The website enables people to anonymously rate their bosses. For the list, the site asked a panel of workplace experts to rank the bosses. The website noted:
“The managers who made this year’s list of America’s Worst Bosses were named in workplace lawsuits or were accused of workplace harassment and/or sexual harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and/or creating a hostile work environment.”