Ellen DeGeneres Show officially under investigation amid allegations of racism, intimidation and a toxic working culture

Ellen DeGeneres

WarnerMedia has launched an investigation into the working environment on The Ellen DeGeneres Show following claims that the set is “dominated by fear”.

According to Variety, staffers received a memo last week from Warner Bros executives and the production company Telepictures informing them that they have engaged WBTV-owner WarnerMedia’s employee relations group and a third party firm.

This third party will interview current and former staffers about their experiences on set, which some say is rife with racism, fear and intimidation.

Ellen DeGeneres has long been plagued by rumours of “notoriously mean” behaviour behind cameras, seemingly at odds with her famously sunny disposition. The allegations have intensified as several reports of a toxic workplace environment surfaced over the past four months.

In April, as DeGeneres moved her daytime talk show to her Beverly Hills mansion, staffers complained they had been dismissed and ignored for weeks on end amid the pandemic.

With many of DeGeneres’ team facing job insecurity and pay cuts, it emerged that only four core crew members were hired for the remote version of the broadcast, and that an outside, non-union tech company had instead been hired to help the star film from home.

Later in mid-July, BuzzFeed published a report that painted a damning picture of alleged racism and intimidation on the show.

Ellen DeGeneres urged to ‘take responsibility’.

DeGeneres, 62, is said to have fired people for attending family funerals or taking medical leave, while producers joked that they’d mix up two Black employees because they had the same hairstyle.

One Black woman alleged that one of the show’s main writers said they only know the names of white employees, and people just “awkwardly laughed it off” rather than confronting it.

Others claimed that direct managers instructed lower-ranking employees not to speak to Ellen if they saw her around the office.

One staffer was reportedly ordered to take down a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for medical costs not covered by the show’s insurance.

Overall, the former staff blamed senior managers and producers for the toxicity, but stressed that as it’s DeGeneres’ name on the brand “she really needs to take more responsibility”.

“I think the executive producers surround her and tell her, ‘Things are going great, everybody’s happy,'” one staff member suggested. “And she just believes that, but it’s her responsibility to go beyond that.”

Ellen DeGeneres made a return to air

Ellen DeGeneres, after production of her show was suspended due to coronavirus, is back and is filming from her Los Angeles living room. (Screen capture via YouTube)

The show’s executive producers 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 realise, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better.”