“The Godfather” Hollywood star Robert De Niro’s company must pay a former employee $1.2 million (£982,000) over claims of gender discrimination and retaliation.
The jury decision ends a years-long legal battle between the actor and Graham Chase Robinson that began after her resignation from Canal Productions.
Ms Robinson had sued for $12 million, alleging she was abused, demeaned, underpaid and treated like De Niro’s “office wife”.
But jurors did not find the actor personally liable in the civil trial.
Ms Robinson was on De Niro’s payroll for 11 years. Hired as his personal assistant in 2008, she was later promoted to vice-president of production and finance at the company.
But after quitting in 2019, she sued for “emotional distress and reputational harm”, claiming he often made “vulgar, inappropriate and gendered comments” and assigned her “stereotypically female” tasks.
He insisted that he was never abusive, and while he admitted he was at times bad-tempered, denied Ms Robinson’s allegations.
Canal countersued for $6 million, accusing her of misusing office funds, stealing company property and transferring more than $450,000 in airline miles to her personal account.
But, after eight days of testimony and five hours of deliberation over the duelling claims, the jury did not find Ms Robinson liable for any of Canal’s financial misconduct claims.
De Niro was not in the courtroom when the verdict was read aloud on Thursday.
Ms Robinson was seen smiling as the decision was handed down and hugging her lawyers after jurors left the room, the Associated Press reported.
Her lawyer told the BBC he was “delighted that the jury saw what we saw”.
“Not only did Ms Robinson win her case against Canal but the jury completely vindicated Ms. Robinson by finding De Niro’s claims against her to be without merit,” David Sanford said in his statement.
In two days on the witness stand, De Niro conceded he had occasionally berated her and raised his voice in her presence, but said that he “was never abusive, ever”.
But in a dramatic outburst, he looked directly at her and shouted “shame on you” across the courtroom.
De Niro further admitted that he had asked her to scratch his back on at least two occasions, but dismissed a question about it by saying: “Ok, twice? You got me!”
He said that she had made escalating demands to remain in the job, prompting him to boost her salary and title even though her responsibilities remained largely the same.
In her turn on the stand, Mr Robinson said that De Niro required her to be reachable by phone at all hours, including on holidays, and yelled at her.
She claimed she quit after an “emotional and mental breakdown” that made her feel like she had hit “rock bottom”, and that she has suffered anxiety and depression.
“I don’t have a social life,” she said. “I lost my life. Lost my career. Lost my financial independence. I lost everything.”