Pop Culture

Ellen DeGeneres addresses ‘toxic’ workplace allegations in letter to crew

Ellen DeGeneres sent a letter to her show’s crew after allegations about workplace misconduct surfaced earlier this month.

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.

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Former and current employees also said that they faced intimidation, racism and fear behind the scenes of the show.

Now, DeGeneres has responded with a letter to her staff, saying she’s working to “correct the issues” going forward while an internal investigation continues to be conducted by WarnerMedia. (You can read the full letter, first obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, at the bottom of this article.)

While DeGeneres didn’t get into any specific allegations or incidents in the letter, she stated that “we are taking steps, together, to correct the issues.”

“As we’ve grown exponentially, I’ve not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I’d want them done,” wrote DeGeneres. “Clearly some didn’t. That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.”

In a statement, Warner Bros. revealed some details about the ongoing investigation, saying that WarnerMedia interviewed “dozens of current and former employees” and found “deficiencies” in how The Ellen Show was run. The company also referred to “several staffing changes made” without giving any specifics. (The full statement can also be found at the bottom of this article.)

Late Thursday, BuzzFeed released yet another report, this one detailing accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct against crew and employees by some of the show’s production staff.

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The publication says it spoke to “dozens of men and women” who work on the show, and their allegations range from groping to inappropriate sexual comments to intimidation. Individuals directly accused in the latest report include Ellen‘s executive producer Kevin Leman, executive producer Ed Glavin and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman.

Leman categorically denied “any kind of sexual impropriety,” Norman said he is “100 per cent categorically denying these allegations,” while Glavin has not yet commented on the accusations.

Warner Bros. declined to comment on these latest specific allegations, citing the ongoing internal investigation.

Here is the full letter from DeGeneres:

Hey everybody — it’s Ellen. On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen DeGeneres Show would be a place of happiness — no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show.

I could not have the success I’ve had without all of your contributions. My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that. Alongside Warner Bros, we immediately began an internal investigation and we are taking steps, together, to correct the issues. As we’ve grown exponentially, I’ve not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I’d want them done. Clearly some didn’t. That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.

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I’m also learning that people who work with me and for me are speaking on my behalf and misrepresenting who I am and that has to stop. As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am, I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or — worse — disregarded. To think that any one of you felt that way is awful to me.

It’s been way too long, but we’re finally having conversations about fairness and justice. We all have to be more mindful about the way our words and actions affect others, and I’m glad the issues at our show were brought to my attention. I promise to do my part in continuing to push myself and everyone around me to learn and grow. It’s important to me and to Warner Bros. that everyone who has something to say can speak up and feels safe doing so.

I am so proud of the work we do and the fun and joy we all help put out in the world. I want everyone at home to love our show and I want everyone who makes it to love working on it. Again, I’m so sorry to anyone who didn’t have that experience. If not for COVID, I’d have done this in person, and I can’t wait to be back on our stage and see you all then.

Stay safe and healthy.

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Here is the entirety of Warner Bros.’ statement:

Warner Bros. and Ellen DeGeneres take the recent allegations around the show’s workplace culture very seriously. We hoped to determine the validity and extent of publicly reported allegations and to understand the full breadth of the show’s day-to-day culture. As a result, WarnerMedia interviewed dozens of current and former employees about the environment at The Ellen DeGeneres Show. It was important to both Warner Bros. and Ellen that as many people as possible attached to the program could be heard.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show is, and has always strived to be, a place that brings positivity to the world. And though not all of the allegations were corroborated, we are disappointed that the primary findings of the investigation indicated some deficiencies related to the show’s day-to-day management. We have identified several staffing changes, along with appropriate measures to address the issues that have been raised, and are taking the first steps to implement them. Warner Bros. and Ellen DeGeneres are all committed to ensuring a workplace based on respect and inclusion. We are confident this course of action will lead us to the right way forward for the show.

With files from Katie Scott

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© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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