Robert De Niro's former assistant has secured an impressive $1.2 million settlement after winning her sexism and retaliation lawsuit against the actor's production company, bringing to a close a high-profile legal battle in which the actor was accused of being an abusive boss, subjecting his subordinate to sexist behavior.
Graham Chase Robinson, 41, was awarded two identical damages payments of $632,142.96 for gender discrimination and retaliation. The verdict came after Robert De Niro's Canal Pictures was found liable on Thursday evening by a Manhattan jury. The sum awarded to Robinson is exactly equal to her salary for the four years she has been unemployed since parting ways with De Niro.
Winning a Difficult Battle
Robinson has been unable to secure a new job despite applying for over 600 roles. Jurors in Manhattan federal court reached a decision after approximately five hours of deliberations on Thursday, concluding a two-week trial.
During the trial, the 80-year-old Oscar winner, De Niro, provided bombshell testimony in an attempt to refute Robinson's claims that he was a difficult boss to work with.
Although Robert De Niro was not personally held liable, jurors determined that his company, Canal Productions, should compensate Robinson, his former longtime assistant, with $632,142 in damages for each of the gender discrimination and retaliation claims.
"They got it right as to Mr. De Niro, that's for sure," De Niro's attorney, Richard Schoenstein, said after the verdict was read.
The star of "Killers of the Flower Moon" was not present in court, but he did testify late last month, expressing his frustration with the proceedings by stating, "This is all nonsense!"
Robinson, who also testified during the trial, telling jurors that De Niro assigned her stereotypically female tasks like cleaning his sheets, embraced her attorneys upon hearing the verdict.
Later, she was photographed leaving the courthouse with a broad smile on her face.
The protracted legal dispute began when Canal sued Robinson in August 2019, alleging that the once-trusted employee stole millions of Delta SkyMiles, spent thousands on Ubers and dining out, and was unproductive, binge-watching "Friends" instead of working.
De Niro's attorney, Richard Schoenstein, said that they would review the amount awarded by the jury as damages. He said that it was "gratifying" that De Niro himself was not found personally liable.
"I'm not going to comment on the verdict - we have to analyze the damage amount,' said Schoenstein.
"It strikes me as a compromise. Obviously they were seeking $12 million and they got $600,000."
He added: "I am very grateful for the service of the jury.
"We are really happy they separated out Bob from this. It is a dispute between an employee and their former employer."
Robinson, who served as De Niro's assistant for 11 years until April 2019, fired back with her own $12 million lawsuit.
She alleged that De Niro never granted her a day off, assigned tasks below her job title, underpaid her due to her gender, and subjected her to inappropriate behavior such as scratching his back or speaking to her on the phone while he urinated.
"I am the VP of Production and Finance and I am ordering vacuum cleaners," Robinson scoffed during her testimony at trial on November 7.
Robinson further claimed that she was relentlessly bullied by De Niro's girlfriend, Tiffany Chen, whom she referred to as a "sociopath." Robinson alleged that Chen conspired to have her fired and tarnish her reputation.
Robinson was acquitted of all charges against her, including allegations of stealing frequent flier miles from Canal and violating company loyalty and fiduciary duties.
"The jury saw what Ms. Robinson saw and completely vindicated her," said her attorney, Brent Hannafan.
"We're thrilled with the verdict. Ms. Robinson is thrilled with the verdict. She feels vindicated," he added.
During his testimony, De Niro acknowledged that he once referred to Robinson as a "f–king spoiled brat" when she failed to wake him up for an important appointment. However, he maintained that he was never abusive.
De Niro also admitted to asking Robinson to scratch his back on a few occasions but vehemently dismissed any suggestion of it having a sexual connotation, angrily labeling such claims as "nonsense."
"OK, twice? You got me! I'm saying this is nonsense," he fumed during his testimony. "It was never done with any disrespect."
Canal Productions may file court papers seeking to reduce the damages awarded to Robinson, according to Schoenstein. He told reporters, "It struck me as a compromise verdict."