Renowned actor Robert De Niro, aged 80, made his appearance at a federal courthouse in New York City on Monday to commence a civil trial aimed at resolving a lawsuit filed against his company, Canal Productions. The lawsuit was initiated by his former assistant, Graham Chase Robinson.
The Oscar-winning actor is expected to provide his testimony during the trial on Monday afternoon. The legal dispute began when Canal Productions filed a $6 million lawsuit against Robinson in 2019, alleging that she engaged in binge-watching Netflix shows during work hours and misappropriated her position for personal gain using her employer’s funds.
In response, Robinson filed a lawsuit against De Niro and Canal Productions, asserting violations of the New York City Human Rights Law. Her claims included allegations of sexist comments and conduct directed at her by De Niro, being assigned “stereotypically female job duties” that did not align with her job title, and receiving lower compensation compared to a male colleague due to gender-based stereotypes. This legal action was carried out with the representation of Sanford Heisler Sharp, a law firm.
Robinson was initially employed as De Niro’s assistant at Canal Productions in 2008, eventually being promoted to the position of Vice President for Production and Finance before leaving the company. She also contends that De Niro’s girlfriend, Tiffany Chen, falsely accused her of having romantic feelings for De Niro. According to a release, De Niro allegedly retaliated against Robinson by stripping her of her job responsibilities after her complaint, leading to her resignation in April 2019.
This civil trial in New York is expected to last approximately two weeks and may involve the presentation of text messages and emails exchanged between Chen and De Niro regarding Robinson.
Brent Hannafan, a partner at Sanford Heisler Sharp, expressed confidence in Robinson’s claims, stating, “Ms. Robinson is ready to tell her story to the jury. Her discrimination and retaliation claims are compelling, and the evidence supporting them is clear. We believe when all the testimony has been heard, the jury will agree with us that De Niro discriminated and retaliated against Ms. Robinson.”
In addition to Robinson and De Niro’s testimonies, the jury may also hear from De Niro’s lawyer, Tom Harvey, his accountant, Michael Tasch, several employees who worked alongside Robinson at Canal between 2008 and 2019, and Chen, whom De Niro has been in a relationship with since 2018. The couple welcomed their seventh child, Gia Virginia Chen De Niro, in May.
When Canal Productions initially filed its lawsuit against Robinson in 2019, the company alleged that she accumulated substantial gratuity expenses on the company’s American Express card, utilized De Niro’s frequent flyer miles for personal travel, and submitted false information to receive $70,000 for 96 days of “unused” vacation time. Furthermore, the company claimed that Robinson spent tens of thousands of dollars on personal expenses and devoted an excessive amount of time to watching television on Netflix instead of fulfilling her work responsibilities. The original lawsuit filing indicated that Robinson was earning $300,000 annually before her “abrupt” resignation via email on April 6, 2019.