A New York jury has awarded Robert De Niro’s former assistant $1.26 million in her lawsuit against the A-lister’s loan-out company, Canal Productions, for gender discrimination and retaliation, according to a representative for plaintiff Graham Chase Robinson. De Niro was not found personally liable in the case.
Additionally, the jury rejected the actor’s counterclaim that she stole 5 million frequent flyer miles from the company.
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Jurors took roughly four hours over a single day of deliberations to reach the verdict. De Niro was not present in the courtroom when the decision was announced.
The trial centered on fallout from when Robinson, who was employed by De Niro’s Canal Productions from 2008 to 2019 in various positions from executive assistant to vp of production and finance, left the company. It involved accusations that De Niro subjected her to vulgar comments and assigned her domestic duties, like buttoning his shirt and washing his sheets, despite her lofty executive title.
After Robinson refused to sign a release once she resigned, De Niro sued her for stealing millions of frequent-flyer miles and other property from Canal Productions. Robinson responded by filing her own lawsuit two months later, near the precipice of the #MeToo movement, accusing the actor of gender discrimination and retaliation.
When De Niro testified on Oct. 31, he said that the case was “nonsense.” He stressed, “It’s absurd.”
Asked whether he had discriminated against Robinson by assigning her certain tasks, like scratching his back, De Niro directly addressed his former employee, who was sitting in the room.
“Shame on you, Chase Robinson!” he said.
The legal drama drew in Tiffany Chen, De Niro’s girlfriend, when Robinson was told to decorate his townhouse. The two began exchanging texts and emails relating to various aspects of the residence. When she first met Robinson, Chen testified that she thought “[t]here is something wrong with her, very seriously wrong with her.” She said that Robinson, who allegedly wouldn’t look her in the face, would move furniture and prune their trees without asking permission. “It all seemed very jealous and territorial,” Chen said at a deposition.
In 2019, Chen demanded De Niro find a replacement because she didn’t want Robinson around the house. She texted him, “I’m not gonna be happy until you tell me she is looking for her replacement” and “if you keep her, you and I will eventually have problems.” (Another of De Niro’s former assistants testified that her employment was terminated in 2003 at the request of his then-wife.) While Chen wasn’t an employee of Canal, U.S. District Judge Lewis Liman found that she could have been acting as an “agent” of the company.
Legal chaos ensued when De Niro balked at proposal from Robinson for her to sign a release. He texted Chen, “The balls. the nerve. the chutzpah. the sense of entitlement, how dare her!”
David Sanford, a lawyer for Robinson, said in a statement, “We are delighted that the jury saw what we saw and returned a verdict in Chase Robinson’s favor against Robert De Niro’s company, Canal Productions. Not only did Ms. Robinson win her case against Canal but the jury completely vindicated Ms. Robinson by finding De Niro’s claims against her to be without merit.”
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