One current and 10 former employees of The Ellen DeGeneres Show have come forward anonymously with claims regarding a "toxic work environment" on set.
The individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution, told Buzzfeed News in a piece published Thursday, July 16 that Ellen DeGeneres' eponymous daytime talk show isn't the cheery, benevolent program viewers see at home. Instead, employees said they were fired after taking medical leave or bereavement days, faced microaggressions and were subjected to favoritism by executive producers.
No specific claims were made against DeGeneres, however some told Buzzfeed News they were told not to speak to the A-lister if she was in the office.
"People focus on rumors about how Ellen is mean and everything like that, but that's not the problem," one former employee claimed. "The issue is these three executive producers running the show who are in charge of all these people [and] who make the culture and are putting out this feeling of bullying and being mean. They feel that everybody who works at The Ellen Show is lucky to work there: ‘So if you have a problem, you should leave because we'll hire someone else because everybody wants to work here.'"
Executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner told E! News they are taking the claims "very seriously," adding in a statement, "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," the statement read. "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."
According to a Black woman who worked on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, she experienced what she described as "microaggressions" and was "reprimanded" by Galvin for asking for a raise and suggesting staff members undergo diversity and inclusion training, among other claims.
"I feel like I'm not alone in this," she said. "We all feel this. We've been feeling this way, but I've been too afraid to say anything because everyone knows what happens when you say something as a Black person. You're blacklisted."
Another former employee said that after taking a one-month medical leave following a suicide attempt, they returned to work and were told their position was being eliminated. In a separate incident, one employee said they were fired after going on a three-week medical leave for injuries suffered in a car accident, working remotely for two days to attend a family funeral and taking three days off to travel for another family funeral.
"That's the definition of a toxic work environment, where they make you feel like you're going insane and then you're like, no, everything I was feeling was right. It was all leading up to this," the employee shared.
According to Buzzfeed News, both accounts were corroborated by other Ellen employees and medical records.
Those that are well-liked by Ellen producers, however, are treated more favorably and often given gifts that the show receives from its sponsors, the employees who spoke to Buzzfeed News said.
"They hire people who maybe are inexperienced with how a functional, nontoxic work environment actually is, or someone who just wants to be in that atmosphere so bad that they'll put up with it," one former employee claimed. "They kind of feed off of that, like, ‘This is Ellen; this is as good as it gets. You'll never find anything better than this.'"
One former employee said they believe the environment on set could benefit from more hands-on involvement from DeGeneres.
"If she wants to have her own show and have her name on the show title, she needs to be more involved to see what's going on. I think the executive producers surround her and tell her, ‘Things are going great, everybody's happy,' and she just believes that, but it's her responsibility to go beyond that," they said.
E! News has reached out to DeGeneres' rep for comment but have not heard back.