If, somehow, you still had dreams of one day working on The Ellen Degeneres Show, you may want to reconsider. On Thursday, July 16, Buzzfeed News published a detailed report about the “toxic work culture” perpetuated by Ellen Degeneres and her executive producers. 10 former employees and one current Ellen employee went on the record anonymously - for fear of retribution from Ellen and the industry at large - describing a work environment filled with “racism, fear and intimidation.” In the report, employees claimed they were fired for taking bereavement days and medical leave, instructed to delete GoFundMe pages they started in order to pay for medical bills not covered by the health insurance they received from the show, and were instructed not to talk to Ellen if they saw her in the office.
“That ‘be kind’ bullshit only happens when the cameras are on. It’s all for show,” said one former employee. “I know they give money to people and help them out, but it’s for show.” A Black woman who worked for Ellen for a year-and-a-half said she experienced “racist comments, actions, and microagressions,” recalling a time when a writer claimed not to know who she was because they “only know the names of the white people who work here” as well as a time when 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 spoke up about the discrimination, her colleagues began to distance themselves from her and referred to her as “the PC police.”
While nothing positive was said about the dancing comedian, the bulk of the ire was directed at Ellen’s executive producers and other senior managers, who were reportedly more directly responsible for the “day-to-day toxicity.” Executive producers Andy Lassner, Ed Galvin, and Mary Connelly responded to the report with the following mea culpa:
“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.”
Some former employees claimed that those who submitted to the toxic work environment and did not speak up received perks including new iPhones, JetBlue gift cards, and other swag the show keeps on hand from its sponsors. “We all have a kind of ‘this isn’t normal’ feeling about how people get treated there,” said one former employee. “And there’s this ushering out the door. Or your contract isn’t renewed the minute you ruffle anyone’s feathers. Or you don’t show that you’re extremely grateful and appreciative to work there.”