MANHATTAN (CN) — Capping off a four-year legal battle between Robert De Niro and his former assistant Graham Chase Robinson, a New York City jury on Thursday awarded Robinson $1.2 million for her gender discrimination and retaliation claims.
The "Taxi Driver" actor himself was not liable, the jury determined, but his company Canal Productions was liable on both counts and Robinson is entitled to $632,142.86 for each one. Robinson, meanwhile, was found not to be liable for the conversion of sky miles, breach of fiduciary duty or breach of loyalty.
Canal Productions sued Robinson after she left the company in 2019, accusing her of stealing frequent flyer miles and overusing her company card for Uber rides, meals and groceries. Two months later, Robinson sued De Niro for gender discrimination and retaliation.
Robinson said the A-lister, who most recently starred in Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” treated her as his “office wife,” insisted she make herself available to him at all hours of the day and assigned her stereotypically female-oriented duties, like working on his five-bedroom Manhattan townhouse he purchased in 2018 to move into with his girlfriend Tiffany Chen.
Robinson said after she complained about harassment to De Niro, he removed her from working on the townhouse. Then, after she resigned, he refused to write her a letter of recommendation.
De Niro's company meanwhile accused Robinson of abusing her benefits and stealing company property that she didn't return until 2020, including office supplies, credit cards, an iPhone containing information related to De Niro’s divorce, more than $4,000 in cash and $19,000 worth of gift cards. Canal Productions also said Robinson overused her company American Express card on Uber and taxi rides, meals at Paola’s Restaurant and groceries at Whole Foods and Dean & DeLuca, and stole five million frequent flyer miles before she resigned, which the company says equated to roughly $85,000.
During closing arguments, De Niro's company's lawyers painted Robinson as someone who was simply trying to take advantage of her employer and dismissed her gender discrimination complaints.
“I cannot listen anymore to [Robinson] talk about how her job is stressful,” said Richard Carl Schoenstein, an attorney for Canal Productions.
While the company does not have written policies or procedures that outline employee benefits, De Niro said he relied on an honor system and trusted his employees would act within reason — and Robinson abused that system. She “acted in her own self-interest, not in the interest of Canal,” Schoenstein said.
Robinson's attorney Brent A. Hannafan said his client wouldn't have been mistreated if not for her gender. He showed text messages and emails in which De Niro referred to Robinson as a “bitch,” “nasty,” and as a “fucking spoiled brat," all examples of gendered language, he argued.
U.S. District Judge Lewis J. Liman, a Donald Trump appointee, presided.Follow @NikaSchoonover
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