Ellen DeGeneres responds to accusations of racism and toxic workplace after an official investigation is launched

Sanjana Varghese
Friday 31 July 2020 07:15
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(Getty Images)

Ellen DeGeneres has attracted a lot of criticism in recent weeks after a BuzzFeed article about working conditions on her show alleged a toxic working environment.

In mid July, a group of former employees on her daytime show spoke to BuzzFeed about their experiences, saying that they had faced “racism, fear and intimidation” as part of their jobs.

Many said that they were fired after taking medical leave or bereavement days, and another said she was fed up with comments about her race and so walked off the job. The employee that faced racism said she was one of a few black staffers and that when she brought up complaints about other people’s remarks, managers would brush it off.

A former employee spoke to BuzzFeed and said: “I think it is a lot of smoke and mirrors when it comes to the show’s brand. They pull on people’s heartstrings; they do know what’s going to get likes and what people are going to go for, which is a positive message. But that’s not always reality.”

Another said:“I never felt like it was safe to go to my manager when I had issues — because this was the same person who would wait for me to go to the bathroom and then message me, asking me where I was and why I wasn’t at my desk.”

Yesterday, Ellen distributed a letter to her crew, which was obtained by the Hollywood Reporter, where she apologised to employees and said that an internal investigation by WarnerMedia and herself was underway.

In the letter, DeGeneres says:

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.

She also says:

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.

Other issues have arisen in the last few months – many employees were anxious after a lack of communication from management about their jobs during the beginning of lockdown too.

While many of the employees involved said that executive producers and managers were to blame for the creation of a toxic work environment, some pointed out that it was Ellen’s name on the show and ultimately, her responsibility to understand what was happening behind the scenes. You can read Ellen's letter to her crew in full here.

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