Really puts the kibosh on the show’s “be kind” tagline.

Caroline Goldstein
July 28, 2020 7:31 am
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Following a BuzzFeed News report about the show’s toxic work environment, The Ellen Degeneres Show is undergoing an internal investigation from its parent company, WarnerMedia. 

The show’s executives sent staffers a memo last week saying that they’ve “engaged WarnerMedia’s employee relations group” and hired a “third party firm” to conduct the investigation, Variety reports. Both current and former staffers will be interviewed about their experiences on set.

In the July 16th BuzzFeed News report, several current and former staffers detailed a work environment in which they “faced racism, fear, and intimidation.” The sources all wished to remain anonymous, fearing they’d be blackballed from the industry. And they all shared their own, uniquely horrible experiences on the set. 

One former employee, a Black woman, left the show after experiencing “racist comments, actions, and ‘microaggressions’” during her year-and-a-half tenure on the show. Among other racist incidents, the former staffer said that when she was hired, “a senior-level producer told her and another Black employee, ‘Oh wow, you both have box braids; I hope we don’t get you confused.’” When she tried to speak to her colleagues about the racism she experienced, they all “distanced themselves from her.”

And another former employee, who had worked on set for almost a year, told BuzzFeed that they took medical leave to seek mental health treatment following a suicide attempt. When they returned to work, they were told they were being fired.

“You'd think that if someone just tried to kill themselves, you don’t want to add any more stress to their lives,” the former employee said. “They definitely don’t practice what they preach with the 'be kind' mantra."  

Although most of the employees placed the blame on the show’s executive producers rather than DeGeneres herself, one source told BuzzFeed that the host “needs to take more responsibility.”

“‘If she 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 employee added. 

BuzzFeed was not the first outlet to report on the show’s abysmal treatment of their staff. In April, Variety wrote about the crew members’ “distress and outrage” over their treatment during the coronavirus pandemic. Among other accusations, sources told Variety that the show’s team of over 30 core crew members received no information about “the status of their working hours, pay, or inquiries about their mental and physical health from producers for over a month.” When producers finally broke their silence, they told the crew to expect a 60% reduction in pay, even though the show would continue to air.      

In a joint statement addressing the accusations detailed in BuzzFeed, executive producers Ed Glavin, Andy Lassner, and Mary Connelly wrote, “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,” they added. “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.”

A source told Variety that the companies overseeing the internal investigation are “[committed] to providing an environment where employees can flourish.” 

We give all the kudos in the world to the staffers who’ve spoken out about their painful experiences in the workplace. Hopefully, their candor will lead to substantive changes on the show.