Courts and Crime
Actor’s production company has been in a years-long legal battle with his former assistant Graham Chase Robinson
On Monday, Robert De Niro took the stand in a civil trial in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to resolve a gender discrimination suit filed against the actor and his company Canal Productions by his former assistant, Graham Chase Robinson.
Following jury selection and opening statements, De Niro spent about 90 minutes on the witness stand and called Robinson’s allegations “all nonsense.” The Killers of the Flower Moon actor claimed he would call Robinson at “civilized” hours only and allowed to to work remotely. “It’s not like I’m telling her to go out and scrape floors, mop floors,” said De Niro, who stated her tasks included scheduling, arranging travel and gift purchases for loved ones.
The legal fight began in 2019 after Canal Productions filed a $6 million suit against Robinson, who was hired as the actor’s assistant in 2008 and later promoted to “vice president of production and finance” at Canal. Robinson resigned from the company in April 2019 amid growing concerns of “company sabotage.” Her salary at the time, according to the suit, was $300,000. The suit alleges that she binge-watched Netflix while on the job and that she used company funds for personal expenditures.
Robinson responded with a suit of her own against De Niro and Canal Productions, alleging violations of the New York City Human Rights Law. Her suit claims that De Niro made sexist comments and conduct towards her, and assigned her “stereotypically female job duties that were inconsistent with her job title.” It also claims she was paid less than a male employee due to gender-based stereotypes, and that De Niro and Canal allowed De Niro’s girlfriend Tiffany Chen “to target her with false accusations about a romantic interest in De Niro,” which led to her being stripped of her job duties in retaliation, according to a statement from the law firm representing Robinson, Sanford Heisler Sharp. Chen is one of a dozen or so witnesses that may be called by the plaintiff. Robinson is suing the actor for $12 million in damages for severe emotional distress and reputational harm.
“Ms. Robinson is ready to tell her story to the jury,” Brent Hannafan, who presented the opening statement at the trial, said in the press release. “Her discrimination and retaliation claims are compelling and the evidence supporting them is clear. We believe when all the testimony has been heard, the jury will agree with us that De Niro discriminated and retaliated against Ms. Robinson.”