“The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is the subject of an internal probe by Warner Media after reports of a toxic work environment.
The investigation was first reported by Variety, which cited a memo to staff from show producer Telepictures and distributor Warner Bros. Television that says they have engaged WarnerMedia’s employee relations group and a third party firm to interview current and former employees about their experiences working for the show.
NBC News has not seen the memo, but a source close to the production confirmed the investigation, saying it started last week and that “there are conversations going on” with past and present employees.
The source also said that DeGeneres is not part of the review: “It is not about her at all.”
Variety reported in April that some crew on the show were upset about their alleged treatment by top producers amid the coronavirus pandemic, including over what they said was a lack of communication about pay and working hours.
In response to the article, a Warner Bros. Television spokesperson told Variety, “Our executive producers and Telepictures are committed to taking care of our staff and crew and have made decisions first and foremost with them in mind.” The studio also said that the crew had been paid consistently, though at reduced hours.
Then, BuzzFeed News reported earlier this month that 10 former employees and one current staff member, speaking under the condition of anonymity, alleged a toxic atmosphere at odds with the show’s motto, “Be kind to one another.”
One former employee, a Black woman, said she was subjected to multiple racist comments and microaggressions during her year and a half working on the show. At a work party, for example, one of the show’s main writers told her: “I’m sorry, I only know the names of the white people who work here.”
She said when she asked producers not to use offensive phrases like “spirit animal” in scripts, her colleagues called her “the PC police.” She eventually left work one day and never came back.
Another employee told BuzzFeed News that after taking a medical leave to spend a month at a mental health facility following a suicide attempt, the employee was told upon returning that their position was being eliminated.
“The biggest common thread that everyone told me is that what goes on behind the scenes is a far cry from what the show represents in their ‘be kind’ messaging and what the show and what Ellen DeGeneres herself profits off of,” Krystie Lee Yandoli who reported the piece for BuzzFeed News, said on “TODAY” in an interview that aired Tuesday.
When the BuzzFeed News article was published July 16, executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner said they were taking the allegations “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,” the statement 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.”
“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,” the statement said.
Following reports of the probe, representatives for Warner Bros. Television and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” declined to comment in separate emails to NBC News. DeGeneres also declined to comment. The award-winning daytime talk show is currently on its normal summer break.