De Niro and former aide trade lawsuits as actor accused of sex bias

Star’s ex-employee Graham Chase Robinson alleges discrimination and harassment

Robert de Niro: Graham Chase Robinson claims the actor wanted him ‘to scratch his back, button his shirts, fix his collars, tie his ties, and prod him awake when he was in bed’. Photograph: Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty

Robert de Niro: Graham Chase Robinson claims the actor wanted him ‘to scratch his back, button his shirts, fix his collars, tie his ties, and prod him awake when he was in bed’. Photograph: Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty

 

Robert De Niro is in a legal battle with a former employee whom his company accused in a lawsuit of running up expenses and binge-watching Netflix during working hours. On Thursday she fired back with her own accusations that the actor subjected her to “gratuitous unwanted physical contact” and saddled her with domestic tasks that male employees were not asked to do.

The former employee, Graham Chase Robinson, filed a lawsuit in US district court in Manhattan accusing De Niro of asking her “to scratch his back, button his shirts, fix his collars, tie his ties, and prod him awake when he was in bed” – making her effectively an “office wife” even as she was promoted.

Robinson’s suit also said that he berated her, often while intoxicated, calling her a “bitch” and a “brat”, and that he underpaid her compared with a male aide doing similar work. “When he was verbally abusive he would be cursing and calling me names,” the 37-year-old said, “he would hang up just to call back and do it all over again.” The complaint added: “De Niro also stood idly by while his friend slapped Ms Robinson on her buttocks.”

Robinson also describes De Niro’s decision to sue her as “a page out of the Bill O’Reilly playbook”, referring to the former TV presenter who left Fox News in 2016 after it was reported he had settled multiple sexual-harassment suits.

Graham Chase Robinson: Robert De Niro’s company accused her of wasting ‘astronomical amounts of time’ watching Netflix during work hours. Photograph: Gabriela Herman/New York Times
Graham Chase Robinson: Robert De Niro’s company accused her of wasting ‘astronomical amounts of time’ watching Netflix during work hours. Photograph: Gabriela Herman/New York Times

De Niro’s lawyer Tom Harvey has called the allegations against De Niro “beyond absurd”.

Robinson’s countersuit comes more than a month after De Niro’s company Canal Productions accused Robinson of enriching herself by charging hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal expenses on a company credit card, spending, for example, more than $12,000, or €11,000, at a restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan over two years and about $32,000, or €29,000, on Uber and taxi rides.

It also claimed that Robinson wasted “astronomical amounts of time” watching Netflix during work hours, including 55 episodes of Friends during one four-day period in January.

In presenting her own account of her falling-out with her ex-boss, Robinson shifts some of the focus on to the intensely private 76-year-old actor, who has been in the public eye lately because of his role in the new film The Irishman and his obscene denunciations of President Donald Trump.

Robinson’s lawsuit denies the claims in Canal’s suit, filed on August 17th in state supreme court in Manhattan, and asserts that it was meant to intimidate Robinson after her lawyer warned De Niro’s lawyer that she had legal claims. Robinson’s lawsuit asked for at least $12 million, or €11 million, double what her former boss’s lawsuit demanded. – New York Times, Guardian