Robert De Niro and Ex-Assistant’s Lawyers Told to Keep Voices Down as Gender Discrimination Trial Gets Heated |

Robert De Niro and Ex-Assistant’s Lawyers Told to Keep Voices Down as Gender Discrimination Trial Gets Heated

A four-year legal battle between the actor Robert De Niro and a former employee went to trial on Monday in federal court in Manhattan.

via: People

De Niro’s testimony turned heated while taking the stand on the first day of a civil trial regarding his company Canal Productions and his former assistant, Graham Chase Robinson.

On Monday, De Niro, 80, was the first to take the stand during the trial at a federal courthouse in New York City. During questioning from Robinson’s legal counsel, the Killers of the Flower Moon star agreed that the ex-assistant “did anything and everything within the confines of her job“ but objected to “the implication that it is anything and everything in my personal life.”

Judge Lewis J. Liman asked De Niro and Robinson’s attorney Andrew Macurdy to keep their voices down and speak more slowly during a line of questioning about which of Robinson’s duties fell under her official job description.

When asked about tasks Robinson completed for De Niro’s girlfriend, Tiffany Chen, the actor became visibly upset, explaining he and Chen “work together.”

Robinson was first hired as the Raging Bull Oscar winner’s assistant at Canal Productions in 2008. Other tasks during her 11 years of employment that Macurdy asked De Niro to clarify included running operations at his townhouse, helping to furnish an apartment and creating Valentine’s Day cards for his then-wife, Grace Hightower.

The latter, said De Niro, was “one of the few things [Robinson] was very good at.”

The legal battle between Canal Productions and Robinson is expected to continue until Nov. 10. It began in 2019, when Robinson left the company after being promoted to Vice President for Production and Finance. Following her departure, Canal Productions filed a $6 million lawsuit against Robinson, alleging that she binge-watched Netflix shows while working and that she abused her position to inappropriately use “her employer’s fund for her personal gain.”

Robinson then counter-sued De Niro and Canal Productions for alleged violations of the New York City Human Rights Law, claiming that De Niro directed sexist comments and conduct at her, assigned her “stereotypically female job duties that were inconsistent with her job title,” and paid her less than a male employee due to gender-based stereotypes, per a release from Sanford Heisler Sharp, the law firm representing Robinson.

The release also alleged that Chen had “falsely accused Robinson of being in love” with De Niro and that he “then retaliated after Robinson complained, stripping Robinson of her job duties and driving her to resign” in April 2019.

The civil trial in New York will continue to feature texts and emails shared between De Niro and Chen, who in one message screenshot displayed in court called Robinson “a nasty b—-.” In another screenshot, Chen wrote that Robinson has an idea of “demented imaginary intimacy.”

On the stand, De Niro testified that he now agreed with Chen about Robinson’s purported feelings for him: “I was shocked by that but now looking back she might’ve been onto something.”

He also claimed Robinson was “rude” to his girlfriend, which he deemed “unacceptable as an employee… I didn’t ask her to scrub floors.”

After Robinson’s attorney Brent Hannafan claimed that she “had to be on call all the time and call her he would,” the court was shown multiple email screenshots of Robinson letting her boss know where she was on holidays and weekends.

De Niro countered that her assigned working hours “were civilized… You’re making it out like I controlled her.”

The issue that led to problems with Robinson’s work performance, De Niro added, was that “instead of doing what she needed to do, she didn’t.”

“I believe in the honor system,” The Irishman actor stated. “I only value work if it is done right or else it reflects poorly on me.”

In his opening statements, De Niro’s attorney Rich Schoenstein said the conflict with Robinson, who he characterized as “the single most difficult person to work with at Canal,” had “nothing to do with gender, everything to do with conduct.”

Aside from Robinson and De Niro’s testimony, the jury will also hear from De Niro’s lawyer Tom Harvey, his accountant Michael Tasch, several employees who worked with Robinson at Canal between 2008 and 2019, and Chen, who De Niro has been dating since 2018.

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