Former ‘Ellen DeGeneres Show’ Staffers Are Speaking Out About Racist, Toxic Culture on Set
And they think DeGeneres should be doing more about it.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show is known for being uplifting, but some of the employees who have worked there tell a different story. In a new report from BuzzFeed News, one current and 10 former employees from the talk show claim that The Ellen DeGeneres Show has a toxic work environment, including racism, favoritism, and people being let go after taking medical and personal leave.
One former employee told BuzzFeed News that she walked away from her job after hearing repeated comments about her race and having her concerns about discrimination and certain terms that were being used (like “spirit animal”) not taken seriously. She says she was too afraid to speak out until now because she thought she’d be blacklisted. Another former staffer, a Black woman, spoke out about "micro-aggressions" as well as the time 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.'"
Another former employee said they took medical leave for a month to check into a mental health facility following a suicide attempt, but when they returned, they found out that their job was being eliminated. “You'd think that if someone just tried to kill themselves, you don’t want to add any more stress to their lives,” the employee said. “Some of the producers talk openly in public about addiction and mental health awareness, but they’re the reason there’s a stigma."
"They definitely don’t practice what they preach with the ‘be kind’ mantra," the former Ellen employee added.
Similarly, another former staff member said they were fired after they had to take off work for two funerals and for medical leave after a car accident. One employee said that they were asked by management to remove a GoFundMe page they set up to help with their medical costs because it could make DeGeneres look bad. “'They discovered my fundraiser, then got mad at me…They were more concerned about Ellen’s brand instead of helping me out,' the former employee said.”
In addition, the employees make claims about there being favoritism of workers who don’t speak up and ignore workplace issues. They say that these employees have been given gifts like iPhones and JetBlue gift cards.
The anonymous employees who spoke with BuzzFeed News place the blame on upper management and the show’s executive producers, rather than on host Ellen DeGeneres. The host has received plenty of complaints about her own supposed treatment of others in the past. In the BuzzFeed News report, one employee even notes, “People focus on rumors about how Ellen is mean and everything like that, but that's not the problem. The issue is these three executive producers running the show who are in charge of all these people [and] who make the culture and are putting out this feeling of bullying and being mean.”
Still, some of the employees believe that DeGeneres should be doing more to support the staff. “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,” one of the former employees told BuzzFeed News. “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.”
In response to the claims, executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner issued the following statement to BuzzFeed News:
"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. 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.”