Robert De Niro is being countersued by a former employee for sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation in the form of a lawsuit he filed against her two months ago for embezzlement, misuse of company credit cards, and theft of time — specifically, spending an "astronomical" amount of working hours binge-watching Netflix shows.
The two lawsuits lay out the same basic facts: Graham Chase Robinson started working for De Niro as an executive assistant in 2008. Her job eventually evolved into that of a de facto head of operations for De Niro's company, Canal Productions. She was given the title of vice president of production and finance in 2017 and resigned this position on April 6.
Beyond that, both sides tell very different stories.
In August, Canal Productions filed a $6 million lawsuit against Robinson for breach of fiduciary duty, breach of duty of loyalty, conversion, and fraud. The complaint alleged Robinson charged hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal expenses on her corporate credit card and used company frequent flyer points worth approximately $125,000 for personal travel. De Niro's company also claimed that Robinson frequently used the company's Netflix account to watch television shows while working from home during weekdays. Per the complaint, during a four-day period this year between Tuesday, Jan. 8, and Friday, Jan. 11, Robinson watched 55 episodes of Friends during work hours.
Canal Productions said in its lawsuit that Robinson "abruptly resigned" when "suspicions arose regarding [her] honesty, integrity, work ethic, and motivation." Following her departure, the company's accountants "initiated a review" of her spending, during which, they claimed in the complaint, they discovered her criminal activity.
In a $12 million countersuit for gender discrimination and wage violation filed Thursday, Robinson fiercely denied every charge against her and accused Canal Productions and De Niro personally of filing a fraudulent lawsuit because she told them upon her resignation that she was considering suing them.
Robinson's complaint detailed years of alleged gender discrimination, harassment, and wage violations at the actor's hands during her 11 years of "conscientious, diligent, loyal, and ethical" employment.
De Niro, Robinson said, treated her as his assistant and "office wife," even after she had been promoted, assigning her to "stereotypically female" tasks such as mending his clothing, selecting gifts for his children, and vacuuming his apartment.
Robinson was also allegedly forced to work longer hours than her male colleagues because De Niro expected her to be "on call" 24 hours a day and drop everything to attend to his needs. She said that she regularly worked a minimum of 20–30 hours of unpaid overtime a week, but the actor and his company refused to compensate her for this time. De Niro was also accused of paying Robinson less than "a male whose job required no greater skill, effort, or responsibility," according to the complaint; when Robinson confronted him, the actor "invoked gender-based stereotypes and implied that a male breadwinner deserved more pay than ... a woman without children."
Robinson also accused the actor of initiating "gratuitous physical contact" and making "vulgar, inappropriate, and gendered comments," such as joking about his Viagra prescription or suggesting that she imagine him on the toilet. Per the complaint, he behaved in a "demeaning and inappropriate" manner toward her throughout her employment and cited examples such as urinating during telephone calls and meeting with her "wearing only his pajamas or a bathrobe."
She also said De Niro communicated with her in a "hostile, abusive, and intimidating manner." To support this allegation, lawyers included a voicemail to her the actor left outside of working hours as an exhibit, which they also uploaded to their website.
In the recording, De Niro referred to Robinson as a "spoiled brat" and unleashed an expletive tirade on his employee: "You fucking don't answer my calls? How dare you? You're about to be fired. How dare you. You're fucking history."
Per the complaint, the hostile work environment left her "no choice" but to resign in April. Through her lawyers, Robinson made it clear that she was contemplating a lawsuit based on the gender discrimination and wage violations she had reported during her employment.
To retaliate before Robinson could act, she claimed, Canal filed a lawsuit against her "filled with baseless, bad faith, and frivolous allegations." She said that one of the purposes of this lawsuit was to muddy her name and make it impossible for her to continue to work in the industry.
"Robert De Niro is someone who has clung to old mores," Robinson's complaint read. "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."
BuzzFeed News has reached out to lawyers for De Niro and Canal Productions for comment on this new lawsuit.