Opening arguments in a workplace civil case pitting actor Robert De Niro against his former executive assistant, Graham Chase Robinson, will begin this afternoon in a federal courtroom in Manhattan, with De Niro himself expected to testify today under direct examination by one of Robinson’s lawyers.

An eight-person jury has been chosen Monday to hear the case, which Judge Lewis J. Liman said will take two weeks. Jurors will have to decide claims contained in dueling lawsuits filed in 2019: whether the Killers of the Flower Moon star subjected Robinson to gender harassment and underpaid her in violation of New York laws, and whether Robinson, who quit the job 2019, misused funds while at De Niro’s company, Canal, and took valuables when she left.

Attorneys for both sides spent part of the morning hashing out objections to elements of each other’s planned opening statements and arguing whether to admit trial exhibits including emails and voice recordings.

The two-time Oscar-winning actor was not in the courtroom for the proceedings before lunch but will be the first witness called to the stand, according to Robinson’s lawyers. Robinson sat between members of her five-person legal team, quietly watching and listening as the lawyers sparred and Liman interviewed potential jurors.

Today’s trial pulls together both De Niro’s initial suit and Robinson’s countersuit.

Each blames the other for a troubled working relationship that ended with Robinson resigning that spring. Their legal complaints offer starkly different pictures of what went on between the Oscar winner for Raging Bull and The Godfather and the woman who spent 11 years on the payroll of De Niro’s company, Canal Productions.

De Niro sued first, claiming Robinson embezzled $6 million in company funds, used a corporate card for personal expenses, spent hours watching Netflix at De Niro’s Manhattan townhouse while on the clock, and stole millions of frequent-flier miles on her way out the company door.

Robinson, in her original filing said that an “enraged” De Niro knew he would soon be facing court claims of gender discrimination, harassment and wage theft, and struck first with an “abusive, preemptive lawsuit” full of “false allegations designed to inhibit Ms. Robinson from pursuing her claims, destroy her reputation, and obliterate her job prospects.”

She said that none of the allegations contained in De Niro’s lawsuit was ever raised with her while she worked for him.

Robinson was 25 years old when she signed on in 2008 to be De Niro’s executive assistant. She alleges that she often worked 11-hour days without breaks attending to De Niro’s personal needs and endured routine humiliation in the role of “office wife,” even as she climbed the company ladder to become director of productions and, later, vice president of production and finance.

“De Niro subjected Ms. Robinson to gratuitous unwanted physical contact,” her lawsuit charges. “He made sexually-charged comments to her …. assigned her stereotypically female duties like housework, and insisted that she be available to him around the clock.”

“Among other things,” the lawsuit states, “De Niro would direct Ms. Robinson to scratch his back, button his shirts, fix his collars, tie his ties, and prod him awake when he was in bed. De Niro also stood idly by while his friend slapped Ms. Robinson on her buttocks.”

“He would joke with Ms. Robinson about his Viagra prescription,” according to the lawsuit. “De Niro smirked to Ms. Robinson about his young paramour, who was around Ms. Robinson’s age. De Niro directed Ms. Robinson to imagine him on the toilet. He told Ms. Robinson that doing manual labor would ‘make a man out of you.’ De Niro suggested that Ms. Robinson could get pregnant using sperm from her (married) male co-worker.”

Robinson alleges that De Niro also “underpaid her because she was not a male breadwinner and denied her overtime pay even though she worked punishingly long hours.”

In court filings surfaced by Puck, De Niro and his much-younger girlfriend, martial arts instructor Tiffany Chen, described Robinson as jealous, territorial and possibly in love with her boss — and furious that Chen had arranged to have Robinson stripped of duties at De Niro’s townhouse.

According to these documents, when Robinson threatened to resign, De Niro gave her a raise to an annual salary of $300,000 to keep her happy.

Dominic Patten contributed to this report.

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