The Ellen DeGeneres Show has responded to complaints from staff calling the show a “toxic” workplace and said they take the claims “very seriously.”
BuzzFeed spoke with 10 former employees of The Ellen DeGeneres Show who claimed they were “fired after taking medical leave or bereavement days to attend family funerals.”
The employees also told the outlet that they were “instructed by their direct managers to not speak to DeGeneres if they saw her around the office.”
“Most of the former employees blamed executive producers and other senior managers for the day-to-day toxicity, but one former employee said that, ultimately, it’s Ellen’s name on the show and ‘she really needs to take more responsibility’ for the workplace environment,” BuzzFeed’s report added.
Former and current employees also said that they faced intimidation, racism and fear behind the scenes of the show.
A Black woman who worked for the show for a year and half told the outlet that she experienced “racist comments, actions and microaggressions” during her time as an employee.
She also said that when she was hired, one of the senior-level producers told her and another Black employee, “Oh wow, you both have box braids; I hope we don’t get you confused.”
The employee said that when she brought up issues of race and representation on the show and asked producers to stop using terms like “spirit animal,” her colleagues called her the “PC police.”
“Whenever I brought up an issue to my white male boss, he would bring up some random story about some random Black friend that he had and how they managed to get over stuff,” she added. “He would use his Black friend as some way to say, ‘I understand your struggle.’ But it was all performative bulls–t.”
The same employee also claimed she asked for a raise after discovering another employee made double her salary for doing the same job, though her raise was not approved.
She said she suggested colleagues take sensitivity training, but when she started to speak up about the discrimination, she said, all of her colleagues distanced themselves from her.
She said she was then called into a meeting with executive producer Ed Glavin where she was reprimanded.
“He said that I was walking around looking resentful and angry,” she said.
She said that after that meeting she left work for the day and never returned to The Ellen Show.
“I feel like I’m not alone in this,” she said. “We all feel this. We’ve been feeling this way, but I’ve been too afraid to say anything because everyone knows what happens when you say something as a Black person. You’re blacklisted.”
The employee said that her former manager from The Ellen Show recently reached out to her amid the Black Lives Matter protests to apologize for not being a better ally.
“I feel angry about the way I was treated, and I am always going to stand up for Black, Indigenous, Latino and Asian people, regardless if they’re around,” she told BuzzFeed. “I can’t not say anything. I’m not going to stop talking.”
In a joint statement to the outlet, executive producers of the show Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner said they take the stories of the employees “very seriously.”
“Over the course of nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes, and employing over 1,000 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.”
This is not the first time that The Ellen Show staff have spoken out against DeGeneres’ show.
Sources for the core stage crew of the talk show (consisting of more than 30 people) said that after weeks of little to no information they were told to prepare for a 60 per cent pay cut.
“When production executives finally did weigh in, nearly all crew members were told last week to brace for a 60 per cent reduction in pay, even as the show continues to air, according to sources close to the matter,” the report alleged.
The crew was also “further incensed by the show’s recent hire of an outside, non-union tech company” that was brought in to help host DeGeneres tape the show remotely from her mansion in California.
“Due to social distancing requirements, technical changes in the way the show is produced had to be made to comply with city ordinances and public health protocols,” a Warner Bros. spokesperson told Variety of hiring Key Code Media, a Burbank-based audiovisual house, to help with the remote version of the show.
According to the report, only four core crew members work on the remote version of The Ellen Show, “who find this treatment to be totally inconsistent with DeGeneres’ daily message to her audiences: ‘be kind.’”
Crew members claimed that they were “left in the dark” from late March through April 9 about if and how much they would be paid.
A Warner Bros. spokesperson acknowledged that the communication could have been better, but cited complications due to the chaos caused by COVID-19.