A New York jury has ruled in favour of Robert De Niro in a multi-million-dollar lawsuit accusing the actor of workplace gender discrimination and retaliation, instead finding the actor’s production company liable of the accusations.
Canal Productions was ordered to pay De Niro’s former assistant US$1.2 million (CA$1.65 million) in damages Thursday. The money must be doled out in two separate payments of US$632,142.
Jurors in Manhattan federal court came to a decision following about five hours of deliberations.
Graham Chase Robinson sued the 80-year-old Oscar winner and his company in July 2021 claiming US$12 million (more than C$16.5 million). Robinson, who was Canal’s vice-president of production and finance at the time she quit her job, filed the lawsuit, claiming De Niro caused her severe emotional distress and reputational harm.
Her lawsuit came after De Niro and Canal earlier sued Robinson in 2019 over allegations she stole five million Delta SkyMiles from company cards and watched “astounding hours of TV shows” while at her job. Both lawsuits were being considered by the New York jury.
Robinson was employed by De Niro from 2008 to 2019. When she quit her vice-president role, she reportedly earned a salary of US$300,000 (about C$416,500).
De Niro testified that despite her executive title, Robinson still functioned primarily as a personal assistant to him. Alternatively, Robinson claimed De Niro overworked and underpaid her and made her perform gendered tasks such as laundry, despite being in a high-level position.
Throughout the eight days in court, De Niro and Robinson pointed fingers at one another in an attempt to place blame for their deteriorated professional relationship.
A visibly “grumpy” De Niro took the stand early on and provided heated testimony. He dismissed Robinson’s claims as “nonsense” and occasionally raised his voice in the courtroom, even shouting “Shame on you, Chase Robinson.” De Niro later apologized for the outburst, but admitted he had at times “berated” Robinson while she was his employee.
During her own testimony, Robinson pointed to De Niro’s “shame on you” comment as proof he regularly yelled at her in the workplace.
Robinson made a slew of allegations against De Niro throughout her testimony. She claimed he would call her frequently outside of work hours, often swore and called her names and repeatedly asked that she scratch his back — an allegation that has garnered ample media attention since the trial’s beginning.
While De Niro said he may have called Robinson names like “petulant,” “snippy” and a “f—ing spoiled brat,” he denied most other allegations. Despite Robinson’s testimony that her job was 24/7, De Niro maintained that he only contacted her during “civilized hours.” He did not deny asking Robinson to reach an itch on one or two occasions but said the request “never was with disrespect or lewdness.”
De Niro’s girlfriend Tiffany Chen also testified and accused Robinson of having “imaginary intimacy” with the actor. Chen called Robinson “a very single white female,” a reference to the 1992 Jennifer Jason Leigh-led stalker flick of the same name.
Robinson denied having any romantic feelings for De Niro and accused Chen of pushing her from the job at Canal because she was jealous of her working relationship with De Niro.
In court, Robinson’s lawyers pressed about the allegations of sexism and asked why Robinson was paid less than De Niro’s other employee, Dan Harvey. De Niro said Harvey has been his personal trainer for 40 years and should not be expected to make the same salary as Robinson.
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