Robert De Niro's Former Assistant Wins $1.3M Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

Robert De Niro's Former Assistant Wins $1.3M Gender Discrimination Lawsuit Photo Source: Elizabeth Williams via AP

Robert De Niro's former assistant has been awarded $1.3 million in damages after she accused De Niro and his company of gender discrimination and retaliation.

Graham Chase Robinson filed her lawsuit over four years ago accusing De Niro's company, Canal Productions, of assigning her “stereotypical female job” responsibilities. Her lawsuit explains that some of her job responsibilities included washing his sheets and looking after his home. Robinson also alleges that Canal Production retaliated against her, ultimately resulting in Canal Productions filing a countersuit.

In their countersuit, Canal Productions claimed that Robinson improperly used company funds to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars on food, travel, and other personal, lavish charges. Canal Productions also alleged that Robinson racked up roughly $4.5 million in airline miles for her personal use after using company credit card points.

Lawyers for Robert De Niro and his company argued that Robinson exploited the generosity and trust the company and DeNiro extended to her, a courtesy that was “common sense” among other employees. Some of those perks included a vacation to Hawaii and a Rolex watch along with an annual salary of $300,000.

After an eight-day trial, a jury of seven returned a verdict in favor of Robinson last week. The jury came to a unanimous decision following five hours of deliberation. Their verdict deemed Canal Productions' claims against Robinson were not viable, but her claims against the production company were.

The jury also found that Canal Productions was guilty of retaliation against Robinson's claim. In part, the retaliation was related to a 2019 dispute between Robinson and De Niro's girlfriend. The dispute ultimately led Robinson to resign from her position with the company, a position she held for over ten years.

During the trial, Robinson’s legal team presented evidence including dozens of text messages and emails between De Niro and Robinson that gave insight into their deteriorating relationship.

DeNiro was not in court when the verdict was read but did share testimony during the trial. De Niro ultimately denied accusations about any gender discrimination, calling the claims “nonsense.” However, he did say he may have called Robinson a brat and a “B****” at one point during her employment as his assistant. He also testified that he may have asked Robinson to scratch his back maybe once or twice, but that there was no “disrespect” or “lewdness” to it. He adds, “It is so ridiculous — it is every little thing she is trying to get on me. It is like she implies that she is out in front of the building scrubbing the floors on her knees.”

Robinson also shared in the trial that even after she was promoted to vice president of production and finance at Canal Productions, she continued being pressured into “personal taking-care-of-people work.”

Another issue of contention arose after De Niro’s girlfriend, Tiffany Chen, and Robinson had disputes over a new townhouse De Niro and Chen were set to move into. Robinson was tasked with helping with the move and getting the home ready for the couple. However, Robinson explained that such a project was beyond her scope of job duties.

“I kept on being given these jobs and objecting to them, objecting to wanting to be involved in setting up his home. You do that with your girlfriend. Do that with your wife. You don’t do that with your female V.P. of production.”

After getting into disagreements with Chen, Robinson emailed De Niro to explain her frustrations. However, Robinson alleges Chen retaliated in a manner Robinson described as “downright harassment.”

The trial found that De Niro was not personally liable for the abuse, but that his company was liable for gender abuse and retaliation. The company has been ordered to make two payments of $632,142 to Robinson.

Following the verdict, a lawyer for De Niro and his company shared that they were happy with the verdict as it resolved the years-long dispute. David Sanford, Robinson's lawyer, also celebrated the victory saying, “Not only did Ms. Robinson win her case against Canal, but the jury completely vindicated Ms. Robinson by finding Mr. De Niro’s claims against her to be without merit.”

Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate from James Madison University, where she studied English and Education. Residing in Central Virginia with her husband and two young daughters, she balances her workaholic tendencies with a passion for travel, exploring the world with her family.
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