Robert De Niro’s Ex-Employee Calls His Back-Scratching Requests ‘Creepy’ and ‘Disgusting’ in Gender Discrimination Trial

Graham Chase Robinson, ex-employee to Robert De Niro and former VP of production and finance at his Canal Productions, took the stand in a New York court Friday in the ongoing trial regarding gender discrimination and retaliation charges against the actor.

Robinson was hired as De Niro’s executive assistant in 2008 and later became the VP of his loan-out company. In her lawsuit, she alleged that De Niro treated her like an “office wife” and gave her gendered tasks to do, like mending his clothes, vacuuming his apartment and scratching his back. She also claimed that he called her a “bitch” and a “brat” and that a male employee, whose job was of equal standing to hers, was paid more than her. De Niro has denied these claims, saying through his lawyers that when Robinson was promoted to VP in 2017, her duties of coordinating his personal and professional life stayed the same.

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In her testimony Friday, Robinson detailed the various personal and professional tasks she was required to perform for De Niro, like maintaining his schedule, buying his meals and running errands for him and his children. She claimed to be on call for him 24/7 and 365 days a year, even while she was on vacation. She also testified that De Niro sometimes forgot his kids’ birthdays or what anniversary he was celebrating, and she would be tasked with buying his gifts.

Robinson testified that De Niro called her a “bitch” twice in the two years before she resigned in late 2018. She said one time occurred after the security company ADT was called for a small fire in De Niro’s townhouse. Robinson was the emergency contact for ADT, and when she requested to be removed as the contact, she said De Niro became upset and said she was “acting like a little bitch.”

Robinson said the other incident occurred around Christmas 2017 when De Niro started swearing because he couldn’t locate gifts he had purchased. When Robinson asked what he was looking for, she said he called her a bitch. She said in court that it was “very difficult to have him call me that” and “it was very demeaning [and] incredibly hurtful to hear that from your boss.”

She also testified that De Niro asked her to scratch his back two to three times in the years before she resigned. When Robinson suggested he use a backscratcher instead, she testified that he said, “I like the way you do it.” Robinson said that the requests felt “creepy” and “disgusting.”

De Niro’s team and Canal Productions sued Robinson, claiming she misused company funds for personal expenses, watched Netflix on company time and transferred $450,000 of airline miles to her own account. Robinson has denied these claims. In her testimony Friday, she said that De Niro allowed her to transfer over Delta SkyMiles to her own account, in lieu of a $24,000 raise she had requested. She also testified that she and De Niro had a policy that there was no limit to her SkyMile usage.

Tiffany Chen, De Niro’s girlfriend, is alleged to have influenced the actor to fire Robinson, according to Robinson’s lawsuit. In her testimony Thursday, Chen said she disliked Robinson and expressed to De Niro that she had issues working with her on preparing a townhouse for the couple to move into. In Robinson’s testimony, she said she protested the townhouse project, but De Niro insisted she work on it because “it was a good skill for her to have.” Robinson claimed that De Niro was referring to “interior design” and home decorating, and that the project was outside of her professional responsibilities. She also said wanted to begin a career in production and did not think she could continue working for De Niro and achieve that goal at the same time.

Robinson was removed from the project, but De Niro has denied that Chen issued any kind of demands on Robinson’s termination. Upon her resignation, Robinson asked for two years of severance, a letter of recommendation and a meeting with De Niro. She said she gave more than two months’ notice and that her last day was in December 2018, but De Niro requested that she continue working until the following summer and Christmas 2019 to assist with buying gifts. Robinson said that De Niro would boast about the prestige of his recommendation, and without it she feared he could “destroy” her career.

The trial is expected to continue through Nov. 10

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