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Robert De Niro accused of 'unwanted physical contact,' verbal abuse by ex-employee

The lawsuit escalates a legal battle between De Niro and the former employee, Graham Chase Robinson.

A former employee of Robert De Niro's company filed a lawsuit in federal court on Thursday accusing the actor of initiating "gratuitous unwanted physical contact," making "sexually charged comments," and treating her as his "office wife."

The lawsuit, filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan, escalates a legal battle between De Niro and the former employee, Graham Chase Robinson. De Niro's company, Canal Productions, filed a lawsuit against Robinson in August, accusing her of "breaching her fiduciary duties," including running up expenses on a company card, and binge-watching shows on Netflix during work hours.

But in the new suit, Robinson claims that De Niro was "enraged" at the prospect that she might bring a discrimination suit against the company after she quit her position as vice president of production and finance, so he allegedly "retaliated and struck first."

Image: Robert De Niro
Robert De Niro.Evan Agostini / AP

She claims De Niro's original suit "concocted false allegations designed to inhibit [her] from pursuing her claims, destroy her reputation, and obliterate her job prospects."

"Robert De Niro is someone who has clung to old mores. 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," the complaint says. "Ms. Robinson is a casualty of this attitude."

Robinson alleges that De Niro, 76, asked her to perform "demeaning duties," such as scratching his back, buttoning his shirts, washing his bedsheets, vacuuming his apartment, and telling her to "prod him awake when he was in bed." She claims that the actor lobbed verbal abuse, often while he was intoxicated, including calling her a "bitch" and a "brat," among other "vulgar, inappropriate and gendered comments."

"He would joke with Ms. Robinson about his Viagra prescription. 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," the complaint goes on to say.

The complaint alleges De Niro once left Robinson a voicemail message in which he called her a "spoiled brat," adding "how dare you [expletive] disrespect me." He appeared to threaten her, saying, "you're [expletive] history." Robinson's lawyers at the firm Sanford Heisler Sharp posted what they said was audio of the call on their website. NBC News has not been able to verify the authenticity of the recording.

Robinson also charges De Niro's company with underpaying her based on her gender, claiming that the actor once "implied that a male breadwinner deserved more pay" than a woman without children. The lawsuit accuses De Niro and Canal Productions of violating the Equal Pay Act. She is seeking at least $12 million in damages, including back pay.

In a statement, an attorney for De Niro denied the claims. "The allegations made by Graham Chase Robinson against Robert De Niro are beyond absurd," said the attorney, Tom Harvey.

De Niro has been under the spotlight in recent weeks while promoting his role in the upcoming Martin Scorsese drama "The Irishman" and publicly excoriating President Donald Trump.

In his original filing on Aug. 17 in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, the actor sought $6 million from Robinson for allegedly charging hundreds of thousands of dollars of personal expenses on a company card, transferring millions of company frequent flyer miles to her own account, and "binge-watching astounding hours of TV shows on Netflix," including 55 episodes of "Friends" during a four-day period in January, among other allegations in the suit seen by NBC News.

But in her lawsuit, Robinson claims that De Niro's suit is "replete with 'clickbait' allegations that falsely characterize Ms. Robinson as a loafer, a thief, and a miscreant. Now, when her name is Googled, these allegations pop up on the screen. The results have been devastating to Ms. Robinson. Her reputation and her career have been destroyed."