'Ellen' show under investigation for allegations of racism, hostility in workplace
Though Ellen DeGeneres, a Metairie-born comedian, has become a beloved national figure, her show has recently come under fire for allegedly having a hostile workplace environment. WarnerMedia is launching an internal investigation into “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” following numerous accounts of workplace problems.
According to Variety, executives from show producer Telepictures and distributor Warner Bros. Television sent a memo to staffers last week saying they have engaged WBTV-owner WarnerMedia’s employee relations group and a third party firm, who will interview current and former staffers about their experiences on set, said sources.
The memo comes on the heels of recent unflattering reports about working conditions at the show. In April, Variety reported on the treatment of legacy crew members during the coronavirus lockdown. In mid-July, BuzzFeed published a report alleging racism and intimidation on the show. The memo came from the desks of Telepictures executive vice president Donna Redier Linsk and WBTV vice president of human resources Donna Hancock Husband.
The name of the third party consultant was not immediately clear. Both companies underscored their commitment to providing an environment where employees can flourish, said one of the individuals familiar with the document.
BuzzFeed’s story contained a spectrum of accused racist behavior, from microagressions to jokes about mistaking two Black female employees with the same hairstyle, as well as criticism of statements allegedly made to another staffer by executive producer Ed Glavin. Glavin and fellow executive producers Andy Lassner and Mary Connelly addressed the allegations 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. It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us,” the group said.
“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.”
In April, Variety reported about outrage among DeGeneres’ production crew, who were subjected to poor communication and told to expect reduced compensation during initial coronavirus shutdowns — even as the series hired nonunion crews to mount a quarantined production from the host’s Los Angeles home. The crew was restored to full pay prior to the publication of Variety‘s report.
At the time, a Warner Bros. spokesperson acknowledged that communication could have been better but cited complications due to the chaos caused by COVID-19. WarnerMedia has, like all other studios, been under pressure in recent years to investigate all claims of workplace hostility in response to increased focus on misconduct in the wake of the #MeToo movement.