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What to know about Robert De Niro’s trial over a workplace dispute

<i>Seth Wenig/AP</i><br/>Graham Chase Robinson
Seth Wenig/AP
Graham Chase Robinson

By Marianne Garvey, CNN

(CNN) — A trial between Robert De Niro and his former employee began in federal court in New York this week.

Graham Chase Robinson, who worked as De Niro’s executive assistant in 2008 and rose through the ranks of his company to vice president before she left in 2019, is seeking at least $12 million in damages for alleged emotional distress and reputational harm from De Niro and his company, Canal Productions. Robinson claims she experienced gender discrimination working for De Niro, alleging he called her an “office wife” and made her do tasks such as washing his sheets, sewing his clothing and scratching his back.

According to her complaint, “De Niro and his corporate alter ego, Canal Productions, Inc. subjected Ms. Robinson to years of gender discrimination and harassment. She eventually quit because she could no longer endure the hostile work environment.”

The jury is also considering claims by Canal Productions first filed in state court against Robinson for alleged misuse of company funds, accusing her of binge watching television while on the clock, transferring more than $450,000 in airline miles to her personal account and expensing personal food, travel and other purchases. He is seeking the return of three years of her salary and other damages.

Robinson denied De Niro’s allegations in her lawsuit.

On both Monday and Tuesday, De Niro took the stand as a witness. He described Robinson’s allegations against him as “all nonsense,” in his testimony on Monday.

When asked about Robinson’s claim he asked her to scratch his back, De Niro acknowledged it happened once or twice, but said it was not with “lewdness” or “disrespect.”

De Niro testified about a tumultuous relationship between Robinson and his girlfriend Tiffany Chen, but also acknowledged Robinson was his go-to person for over a decade relating to his personal and professional life.

The Oscar-winning actor, who currently stars in “Killers of the Flower Moon,” concluded his time on the stand on Tuesday.

The trial is expected to last at least two weeks.

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