Robert De Niro’s former assistant has scored a stunning $1.2 million payout after winning her sexism and retaliation lawsuit against the actor’s production company.
Graham Chase Robinson, 41, was awarded two identical damages payments of $632,142.96 for gender discrimination and retaliation after De Niro’s Canal Pictures was found liable Thursday evening.
Robinson’s win is a sizeable one, but falls far-short of the $12 million damages she originally sought. De Niro counter-sued her for $6 million over air miles she took, but Robinson was found not liable for those allegations.
The verdict came after five hours of deliberations by a jury of four women and three men at Manhattan Federal Court. An eighth juror called in sick Thursday morning.
Chase Robinson worked for Canal, but was essentially De Niro’s fixer between 2008 and 2019 and earned a salary of $300,000 by the time of her resignation.
Her former boss was not found personally liable for claims of gender discrimination or retaliation, although Robinson’s allegations all centered on his bad behavior.
She said he repeatedly branded her a ‘bitch’ and asked her for back-scratches, behavior she branded ‘creepy’ through sobs on the witness stand.
Jurors did not explain why Canal was found liable but De Niro was not. Canal will likely also have to pay Chase Robinson’s hefty legal fees.
Graham Chase Robinson is pictured outside court Tuesday, before her $12million lawsuit against former employer Robert De Niro concluded
Robinson was in court for Thursday’s verdict but De Niro wasn’t. He was spotted in the courthouse late Wednesday during closing arguments and gave evidence on October 31.
The Taxi Driver star, 80, was accused of being an abusive boss in the bombshell trial hear by eight jurors at Manhattan Federal Court.
Jurors were sent out just before noon local time on Thursday, after listening to a week-and-a-half of evidence in the $12 million case brought by 41 year-old Robinson.
De Niro denied Robinson’s claims and counter-sued her for $6 million, alleging she stole five million of his air miles.
The iconic actor denied losing his temper at Robinson – but did just that in court, screaming ‘Shame on you, Chase Robinson!’ last week, before apologizing.
The most jaw-dropping claims saw Robinson brand her former boss of ‘creepy’ and ‘disgusting’ requests for back-scratches.
Sobbing as she spoke on November 3, Robinson said: ‘I mentioned there was a back scratcher he could use instead. ‘He said ‘I prefer the way you do it’.’
‘It was creepy, just disgusting.’
The actor insisted there was nothing untoward or sexist about this and that his requests did not constitute gender discrimination.
Robinson also claimed De Niro had branded her a ‘bitch’ two or three times during her 11 years working for him.
She said he accused her of acting ‘like a little bitch’ after a fire broke out at his NYC townhouse.
Robinson said the slur was deployed again in December 2017, when De Niro lashed out after being unable to find Christmas presents at his home.
Robert De Niro outside Manhattan Federal Court on Wednesday evening, as closing arguments in Graham Chase Robinson’s lawsuit against him moved towards a conclusion
‘He was cursing left and right. I was trying to sort it but he just said I was being a bitch.’
Robinson was employed by De Niro’s Canal pictures and began working there in 2008 as an executive assistant on a $75,000 salary.
By the time she resigned in April 2019, she’d been promoted to vice president of production and finance and was being paid $300,000-a-year.
Robinson was effectively De Niro’s fixer and says she was expected to be on-call 24/7, 365 days of the year to help him with his children, family and medical care.
She also clashed with De Niro’s girlfriend Tiffany Chen after claiming Chen ‘humiliated’ her by forcing her to order vacuum cleaners and set up director Martin Scorsese’s birthday bash.
Chen accused Robinson of overspending and blasted the former employee as ‘obsessive, psychotic and dangerous’ while on the stand last week.
Robinson said De Niro held male and female employees to different standards.
A court sketch shows Robert De Niro giving evidence on October 31. He lost his temper with Chase Robinson in court
‘Female employees were expected to be on call 24/7 for Bob. He didn’t expect male employees to be on call for him,’ she claimed, adding that the Oscar-winner referred to his female assistants as ‘the girls’.
She said: ‘Male employees could not be available and Bob wouldn’t mind.’
Robinson says she asked to receive the same salary as fellow employee Dan Harvey who is the actor’s personal trainer and has worked with him since 1985.
But she claims De Niro gave a poor excuse for refusing: ‘Chase you don’t have kids. Dan has a family to support.’
‘It made me so sad. It frustrated me, it angered me … I was really hurt by that comment,’ she told the court. ‘I gave this job my life. I didn’t have kids because I worked.’
Her salary was subsequently raised from $200,000 to $300,000, with Harvey on $290,000 at the time.
De Niro’s defense attorney Richard Schoenstein cross-examined Robinson on the stand and asked her: ‘You thought you should be paid the same as someone who has been working with Mr De Niro since you were in pre-school?’
On Wednesday, the court also heard from De Niro’s longtime personal trainer Harvey, 63, who has also run lines with the actor ahead of filming for the past 40 years.
Harvey said he has been a full-time trainer for De Niro since 1985, that he spent two to seven hours with the actor for around 330 days a year and had to travel with him to film locations around the world.
De Niro is pictured with his girlfriend Tiffany Chen in June. Robinson and Chen clashed, with Chen expressing worries over Robinson’s spending
Robinson held a tissue to her face and appeared emotional on Tuesday as she told the court she was worried no one would believe her word against De Niro’s.
Her resignation email was shown to the jury and she told De Niro that she had been ‘loyal, protective, honest and beyond hard-working.’
‘I poured my heart and soul into this job and as a result other parts of my life and opportunities were put on hold. You always came first,’ she wrote.
It has been over three years since she left Canal Productions and in her testimony, she said she has applied to 638 jobs since but has not landed a single interview.
She revealed she suffers from depression, anxiety and insomnia and has to take medication to even leave the apartment she shares with her mother.
‘I’ve lost my life. I‘ve lost my career. I’ve lost my financial independence. I’ve lost everything,’ Robinson, who now sees a therapist, said.
On Tuesday, Robinson’s team’s psychiatrist Dr Robert Goldstein diagnosed her with generalized anxiety disorder linked to her employment at Canal.
The practicing psychiatrist said Robinson suffered from the ‘serious and often disabling psychological condition’ after evaluating her in January 2019, and reviewing more than three years worth of medical records.
He said she suffered with symptoms like insomnia and memory loss, and ‘experienced a good deal of psychological pain and emotional discomfort’ which began while she was employed by De Niro.
When asked what the trigger for this mental condition was, he said: ‘Her perceptions of being discriminated against and retaliated against on her job.’
But a psychiatrist hired by De Niro’s attorneys described Robinson as ‘narcissistic and paranoid’.