Two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro, who sued a former employee last month for watching “astounding hours of TV shows on Netflix” at work among other claims of exploitation and financial abuse, became the defendant in a separate gender discrimination lawsuit brought by that same employee Thursday.
In his August lawsuit filed in New York state court, “The Irishman” star alleged that his ex-assistant Graham Chase Robinson abused her financial position of power while working for his loan-out company, Canal Productions, a business that contracts De Niro’s services to third parties.
De Niro’s lawsuit claimed that Robinson, who was responsible for ensuring that Canal was not being used by employees for their personal gain or expenses, was doing exactly that for her own personal gain. And he’s seeking $6 million to make up for it.
But in her own $12-million lawsuit, filed in New York federal court Thursday, Robinson, 37, alleged that De Niro, 76, discriminated against her because she is a woman, among other violations of New York human rights and labor laws.
The complaint, obtained by The Times, characterized De Niro’s August lawsuit as one “replete with ‘clickbait’ allegations that falsely characterize Ms. Robinson as a loafer, a thief, and a miscreant.” She said that the results have been devastating and that her reputation and career have been destroyed.
Robinson — who worked for De Niro as an assistant when she was hired in 2008 at age 25 and her position eventually evolved into that of vice president of production and finance — said the actor’s lawsuit was filed to prevent her from pursuing her claims, adding that none of the allegations that Canal made against her had been raised with her prior to her resignation in April.
Regarding some of the more salacious allegations, her complaint, at times, also evoked disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
“He retaliated and struck first,” her legal complaint said of De Niro. “On the heels of Ms. Robinson’s complaints of gender discrimination, De Niro had Canal Productions file an abusive, preemptive lawsuit against her. The lawsuit concocted false allegations designed to inhibit Ms. Robinson from pursuing her claims, destroy her reputation, and obliterate her job prospects.”
In a statement to The Times on Thursday, De Niro’s attorney Tom Harvey said “the allegations made by Graham Chase Robinson against Robert De Niro are beyond absurd.”
Robinson’s attorney Alexandra Harwin countered by saying De Niro’s treatment of Robinson “was inappropriate, demeaning, abusive, and intolerable.”
“Canal’s retaliatory lawsuit against Ms. Robinson is a naked act of retribution and intimidation,” Harwin said in a statement to The Times.
Below is a breakdown of their dueling complaints, both of which The Times obtained.
She wants: $12 million, including back pay, front pay and other damages, attorney and other various fees.
What she claims: Violations of New York City’s human rights and labor laws, including gender discrimination and retaliation; violation of the equal pay act, violation of the equal pay law and failure to pay overtime.
Excerpt: “Robert De Niro is someone who has clung to old mores. He does not accept the idea that men should treat women as equals. He does not care that gender discrimination in the workplace violates the law. Ms. Robinson is a casualty of this attitude,” her complaint said.
- De Niro allegedly made abusive and sexist comments such as calling her a “bitch” and a “brat” and referred to his female business partner as a derogatory term. She said he also unleashed tirades against her often while intoxicated and make jokes about his young paramour and his Viagra prescription.
- Robinson claimed that he urinated during phone calls with her and met with her wearing only his pajamas or a bathrobe. She also claimed that he initiated gratuitous physical contact, asking her to scratch his back, button his shirts, fix his collars, tie his ties and prod him awake when he was in bed. She said that De Niro stood idly by while his friend slapped her on her buttocks.
- As his “office wife,” Robinson said that he often assigned her duties “that were not commensurate with her title,” such as putting away his boxers, washing his sheets, vacuuming his apartment and selecting gifts for his children. She said he “responded angrily” when she “objected to performing these stereotypically female duties.”
- Robinson said that she was required to be “on call” all the time, and De Niro insisted she drop everything to attend to his purported “needs.” A expletive-laden voicemail, which surfaced Thursday, recorded De Niro calling her a “spoiled brat,” berated her for disrespecting him and threatened her. She said that she had to work longer hours than her male co-workers, and about 20 to 30 hours of overtime a week, without receiving overtime pay.
- Robinson said she reported to people who work for De Niro that she was being harassed, but no action was taken to remedy the problem. When she told the actor that she would be resigning in November 2018, he “induced her to stay” by promising that her work conditions would improve. He also threatened to give her a “bad recommendation” if she left.
De Niro says
He wants: At least $6 million in damages, including disgorgement of her compensation and the value of the funds and property she allegedly misappropriated.
What he claims: Breach of fiduciary duty, breach of duty of loyalty, conversion (of Canal’s property for her own use), fraud
Excerpt: “This lawsuit seeks economic damages from a disloyal employee who, despite being in a trusted position, repeatedly and methodically abused her position to misappropriate her employer’s funds and property for her personal gain.”
- She allegedly charged hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses on Canal’s American Express card, to allegedly pay for a falsified business trip, groceries, personal meals and transportation, as well as a $1,311.94 floral arrangement, “to which she treated herself for her birthday.”
- De Niro claimed that Robinson used and converted millions of Canal’s frequent-flyer miles for her personal use, including approximately $3 million worth of De Niro’s frequent-flyer miles for “personal trips and vacations” and $5 million in transfers to her personal account, valued in total at more than $125,000. (De Niro said Robinson earned $300,000 annually by the time she resigned.)
- Robinson allegedly improperly “reimbursed” herself from Canal’s petty cash account for personal and luxury items such as iPhones, a Louis Vuitton handbag and a dog sitter, none of which were authorized in connection with her employment.
- She also allegedly submitted false information to be paid for 96 days of “unused” vacation time, seeking payment for several days of unused vacation each year from 2014 to 2018, when in fact she took more than her allotted amount of vacation days each year.
- Finally, he said she “loafed during working hours, binge-watching astounding hours of TV shows on Netflix,” including dozens of episodes of “Friends,” “Arrested Development” and “Schitt’s Creek.”
De Niro’s spokesman said that no date has yet been set to resolve the lawsuits.