Editor’s note: This article was originally published on July 20, 2020. It was updated July 28, 2020, after reports came out that the famous daytime talk show was under internal review following the allegations about its “toxic work culture.”
On Monday, Variety reported that the Ellen Degeneres’ Show was to go under an internal investigation by Warner Media, following the allegations of 10 former staffers and one current employee about their experiences resulting in them naming the show a “toxic work environment.”
According to Variety, Telepictures and Warner Bros. Television announced that Warner Media’s employee relations group, along with an unnamed third party firm, will conduct interviews across the board about their experiences working for the talk show. However, both spokespeople for Warner Bros. Television and the Ellen Degeneres Show have declined to comment on the situation.
The internal investigation will review the allegations of racism and intimidation on the show from former employees who had previously talked with Buzzfeed News about their experiences working for the show. The allegations included “claims of being penalized for taking medical leave, instances of racial microaggressions, and fear of retribution for raising complaints.”
According to a joint statment to Buzzfeed, executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner explained, “Over the course of nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes and employing over 1000 staff members, we have strived to create an open, safe and inclusive work environment,” they said in a joint statement to BuzzFeed. “We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience.”
They also added, “It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us. For the record, the day-to-day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us. We take all of this very seriously and we realize, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better.”
Nevertheless, these types of allegations have not been made specifically against talk show hostess, Ellen Degeneres, who did have some complaints of demeaning behavior towards others. However, she has yet to comment about what’s going on with her show.
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Apparently, not everything is bright and peachy as it normally seems on the Ellen Degeneres Show. Recently, 10 former employees from the show spoke anonymously with Buzzfeed News after they were “fired after taking medical leave or bereavement days to attend family funerals.”
The favored daytime talk show builds its name on the mantra, “be kind,” but one former employee stated, “If [Ellen] wants to have her own show and have her name on the show title, she needs to be more involved to see what’s going on.”
The former employees explained to Buzzfeed that they were actually working in a toxic work environment behind the multi-million dollar brand, known for its crazy audience giveaways and charity acts. This included acts of racism, fear, and intimidation, not directly from Ellen Degeneres, the talk show host herself, but from her executive producers and other senior managers.
One former employee said, “I think the executive producers surround her and tell her, ‘Things are going great, everybody’s happy,’ and she just believes that, but it’s her responsibility to go beyond that.” But in trying to talk to Ellen about what was going on internally with her show’s productions team, other former employees said that they were instructed by their direct managers not to talk to her if they saw her.
Some of the accusations of racism included racist comments from a senior-level producer who told a Black woman and another Black employee, “Oh wow, you both have box braids; I hope we don’t get you confused.” And other racist comments and microaggressions included one of the main writers saying, “I’m sorry, I only know the names of the white people who work here,” with laughter as a response from other colleagues rather than someone pointing out what was wrong.
Another former employee who asked for the phrase “spirit animal” to not be used was mocked as the “PC police.” Executive producer Ed Glavin scolded her for bringing that up, asking for a raise, and recommending diversity and inclusion training for all employees, saying she was “walking around looking resentful and angry.” She left for home that day and never came back. She didn’t speak up for years out of fear until recently because of the Black Lives Matter movement, but when a manager reached out to apologize, the former employee explained that it was “too late.”
Another former employee, who took medical leave for a month after a suicide attempt, came back only to find their position had been eliminated. And another former staffer was warned to take down a GoFundMe campaign shared on social media to raise money for medical bills that weren’t covered by the company’s health insurance, “because of concerns it might hurt Degeneres’s image.
However, apparently Ellen isn’t completely in the clear of accusations either. Comedian Kevin T. Porter asked people to share “the most insane stories you’ve heard about Ellen being mean,” on Twitter, to which the tweet got more than 2,600 replies. Ellen’s former bodyguard also talked about a negative experience he had with her in 2014, calling out that she was “demeaning” to others.
Variety reported that employees were frustrated that the top-level producers were not communicative about the next steps following the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet in criticizing that argument, a spokesperson for Warner Bros. Television explained that although communication could’ve been better, the crew was still paid during the mess caused by COVID-19, just at reduced hours.
Nevertheless, the division between staff members is inherently evident according to the former employees. Favorites are played while people are fired like they never existed, deeming the tv show with having a toxic work culture. Other employees defend the talk show, explaining that this is how the industry is but were still criticized by the former employees saying that the tv show stood out for being so negative from within.
“Over the course of nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes, and employing over 1000 staff members, we have strived to create an open, safe, and inclusive work environment,” they said. “We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience. It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us. For the record, the day to day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us. We take all of this very seriously and we realize, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better.”