Robert De Niro's company ordered to pay $1.2m in gender discrimination lawsuit - but star not personally liable

Robert De Niro's company has been ordered to pay more than $1.2m (£982,000) to his former personal assistant after it was found to have engaged in gender discrimination and retaliation - but a jury found the star was not personally liable for the abuse.

A judge ordered De Niro's company, Canal Productions, to make two payments of $632,143 to his long-time personal assistant Graham Chase Robinson.

De Niro, 80, who spent three days at the two-week trial, including two in the witness box, has been ensnared in duelling lawsuits with Ms Robinson since she quit in April 2019.

Ms Robinson, 41, said De Niro and his girlfriend Tiffany Chen teamed up against her to turn a job she once loved into a nightmare.

De Niro and Ms Chen each said during evidence that Ms Robinson became the problem when her aspirations to move beyond Canal Productions led her to make escalating demands to remain in the job.

In two days in the witness box the actor told jurors he boosted Ms Robinson's salary from less than $100,000 (£82,000) annually to $300,000 (£245,000) and elevated her title to vice president of production and finance at her request - despite her responsibilities remaining largely the same.

De Niro said when she quit Ms Robinson stole about $85,000 (£70,000) in airline miles from him, betrayed his trust and violated his unwritten rules to use common sense and always do the right thing.

At times De Niro acknowledged from the witness box many of the claims Ms Robinson made to support her $12m (£10m) gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit.

He agreed he had asked her to scratch his back on at least two occasions, dismissing a question about it with: "Ok, twice? You got me!"

He admitted he had berated her, though he disputed ever aiming a profanity her way, saying: "I was never abusive, ever."

He also denied ever yelling at her, saying every little thing she was trying to catch him with was nonsense and that, at most, he had raised his voice in her presence but never with disrespect.

Then, he looked at her sitting between her lawyers in the courtroom and shouted: "Shame on you, Chase Robinson!"

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'Emotional and mental breakdown'

Ms Robinson said she quit her job during an "emotional and mental breakdown" that left her overwhelmed and feeling like she had "hit rock bottom".

She said she has since suffered from anxiety and depression and has not worked in four years despite applying for 638 jobs.

"I don't have a social life," she said. "I'm so humiliated and embarrassed and feel so judged. I feel so damaged in a way. ... I lost my life. Lost my career. Lost my financial independence. I lost everything."

'A civil rights trial'

De Niro's lawyers sued Ms Robinson for breach of loyalty and fiduciary duty even before her lawsuit was filed against him in 2019.

They sought $6m (£5m) in damages, including a return of the five million airline miles.

In a closing argument on Wednesday, De Niro's lawyer Richard Schoenstein said the miles that were taken were worth about $85,000. He said jurors could order Ms Robinson to return some of her salary, but, he added: "We're not looking for you to punish her."

In his closing, Ms Robinson's lawyer Brent Hannafan called the two weeks of court proceedings a civil rights trial and urged jurors to return a verdict "not just for Ms Robinson, but for all civil rights litigants".

De Niro has won two Oscars and is currently starring in the Martin Scorsese film Killers Of The Flower Moon.