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Ellen DeGeneres Addresses Toxic Workplace Allegations in Letter to Staff

The talk show host wants the show staff's work experience to match the show's message of happiness.

Diane Gordon

Ellen DeGeneres has responded to the recent Buzzfeed report regarding the negative experiences some The Ellen Degeneres Showstaffers have had while working on her popular, long-running talk show, which is currently renewed through 2022. While there is speculation about which senior executives may be affected as the show deals with the fallout from the allegations, DeGeneres has not spoken publicly about the topic. However, in a letter to her staff, first obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, DeGeneres began by saying she always wanted her show to be "a place of happiness" where people are treated with respect. 

Taking responsibility for the current situation because her name is on the show, DeGeneres referenced the investigation Warner Brothers instigated after several staffers shared stories of a toxic workplace rife with racial discrimination, penalties for taking personal time, and being instructed not to look directly at DeGeneres when crossing paths with her. The oppressive atmosphere drove some staffers away from what appeared to be, to most people, a great gig: a job on a long-running show starring one of America's favorite talk show hosts. 

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Also in the letter to the staff, DeGeneres said she is grateful for her staff's contributions and is committed to correcting the workplace issues. DeGeneres also referenced being "othered" and said she has "deep compassion" for anyone on her staff who felt they were "treated unfairly, not equal, or - worse - disregarded." 

"Warner Bros. and Ellen DeGeneres take the recent allegations around the show's workplace culture very seriously. We hoped to determine the validity and extent of publicly reported allegations and to understand the full breadth of the show's day-to-day culture. As a result, WarnerMedia interviewed dozens of current and former employees about the environment at The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Warner Brothers said in a statement. "It was important to both Warner Bros. and Ellen that as many people as possible attached to the program could be heard. The Ellen DeGeneres Show is, and has always strived to be, a place that brings positivity to the world. And though not all of the allegations were corroborated, we are disappointed that the primary findings of the investigation indicated some deficiencies related to the show's day-to-day management. We have identified several staffing changes, along with appropriate measures to address the issues that have been raised, and are taking the first steps to implement them. Warner Bros. and Ellen DeGeneres are all committed to ensuring a workplace based on respect and inclusion. We are confident this course of action will lead us to the right way forward for the show."

The comedian/host expressed pride for the work everyone does on the show and how it puts "fun and joy out in the world" and apologized to those who didn't have that same experience when working on the show. DeGeneres resolved to do her part "to push myself and everyone around me to learn and grow."

DeGeneres' complete letter can be found below. 

Hey everybody – it's Ellen. On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen DeGeneres Show would be a place of happiness – no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it's the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show. 

I could not have the success I've had without all of your contributions. My name is on the show and everything we do and I take responsibility for that. Alongside Warner Bros, we immediately began an internal investigation and we are taking steps, together, to correct the issues. 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. 

I'm also learning that people who work with me and for me are speaking on my behalf and misrepresenting who I am and that has to stop. As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am, I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or – worse – disregarded. To think that any one of you felt that way is awful to me. 

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. 

I am so proud of the work we do and the fun and joy we all help put out in the world. I want everyone at home to love our show and I want everyone who makes it to love working on it. Again, I'm so sorry to anyone who didn't have that experience. If not for COVID, I'd have done this in person, and I can't wait to be back on our stage and see you all then. 

Stay safe and healthy. 

Love,  

Ellen 

Ellen Degeneres, The Ellen Degeneres Show

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