A four-year legal battle between actor Robert De Niro and a former employee went to trial Monday in Manhattan, where allegations of gender discrimination and inappropriate spending were exposed in open court.
The former employee, Graham Chase Robinson, who started as De Niro’s executive assistant in 2008 and ended up as vice president, sued the actor and his company, Canal Productions, for gender discrimination. She claimed in her lawsuit that De Niro treated her like an “office wife,” making her wash his bedding and scratch his back, and paid her less than a male employee whose job required no greater skill or responsibility. than hers.
Canal Productions sued Robinson, accusing her of improperly transferring more than US$450,000 (about R$2.25 million) in airline miles to her personal account and spending tens of thousands of dollars of company money on food, travel and other personal services.
The jury will decide the validity of both sides’ allegations at the same time. In court documents, Robinson denied making unauthorized purchases or improperly converting airline miles, and De Niro denied her allegations of assigning her “stereotypically female” work.
On Monday, Oscar-winner De Niro, 80, who is in the spotlight for his role in Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” was the first witness to speak at the trial.
WHAT IS GRANHAM CHASE ROBINSON ALLEGING?
Robinson, 41, who is often called Chase, began working for De Niro as an executive assistant at age 25, eventually becoming vice president of production and finance at Canal Productions before resigning in 2019. Despite During her promotions, De Niro continually referred to her as his assistant, she claimed in the lawsuit, assigning her tasks inconsistent with her job descriptions, such as vacuuming his apartment and fixing his clothes.
She claimed she was paid less than a male employee because of her gender, and that De Niro made derogatory gender-based comments that included calling her a “slut” and “spoiled,” according to the lawsuit. (De Niro denied doing so in court documents.)
The jury will consider two specific allegations under the New York City Human Rights Law: gender discrimination and retaliation.
The retaliation allegation centers around a dispute between Robinson and De Niro’s current girlfriend, Tiffany Chen, as they worked together in 2018 and 2019 to prepare an Upper East Side home for the couple to move into.
In opening arguments Monday, an attorney for Robinson, Brent Hannafan, said Chen had expressed concerns to De Niro that Robinson had romantic interests in him, leading to tensions as they worked together at the house.
After Robinson raised the issue with De Niro, Hannafan said Chen sent an email withdrawing his work responsibilities, including around the house. Robinson resigned soon after.
“There was no one more loyal to Canal and Mr. De Niro than Chase Robinson,” Hannafan said. (He said Robinson never had any romantic interest in his boss.)
WHAT ARE ROBERT DE NIRO AND HIS COMPANY ALLEGING?
Lawyers for De Niro and his company presented Robinson’s rise at Canal Productions differently: Although she filed for the title of vice president in 2017, they said her job responsibilities coordinating De Niro’s personal and professional life had not changed. . They also said that the male employee who was paid less than her — De Niro’s personal trainer — had worked for the actor significantly longer than she had.
In opening arguments, Richard C. Schoenstein, a lawyer for De Niro and his company, acknowledged that the job of a personal assistant to a high-profile actor and businessman like De Niro can sometimes be unglamorous. But he said De Niro had been a kind and generous boss, positioning Robinson as someone who “took advantage” of his access to money and fame by charging “extraordinary” amounts for personal expenses and launching a trip to Los Angeles under false pretenses.
“All of this was building up to a serious breach of trust,” Schoenstein said, later adding, “None of what happened occurred because she was a woman.”
Canal Productions’ allegations against Robinson, who was receiving a salary of US$300,000 (about R$1.5 million) when he resigned, include breach of fiduciary duty, breach of duty of loyalty and conversion – referring to the dispute over air miles.
The lawsuit also accused her of watching Netflix series while working — an allegation that made headlines in 2019 — although De Niro’s lawyers did not mention that accusation on the first day of the trial.
WHAT DID DE NIRO SAY IN COURT?
De Niro spent about 90 minutes on the witness stand Monday afternoon, answering questions from Robinson’s lawyer about the rigor of her job — she said she had to be “on call” at all times — and the specific details of their functions. He said he would call Robinson only at “civilized” times, allowing her to work remotely when she wanted, and that her duties sometimes involved scheduling appointments, arranging travel and managing gift shopping for loved ones.
“It’s not like I’m telling her to go out and clean the floor, mop the floor,” said De Niro, who wore a dark blazer, gray polo shirt and sneakers.
De Niro also addressed the feud between Robinson and his girlfriend, Chen, saying that when he introduced the two in 2018, “I wanted everything to work out. I wanted everyone to be happy and get along.”
I am Frederick Tuttle, who works in 247 News Agency as an author and mostly cover entertainment news. I have worked in this industry for 10 years and have gained a lot of experience. I am a very hard worker and always strive to get the best out of my work. I am also very passionate about my work and always try to keep up with the latest news and trends.