The Ellen DeGeneres Show's Undeniably Toxic, Racist Work Culture

Gillian Sisley

Former and current employees alike are stepping forward to expose the truth.

Several months ago, Twitter exploded with multiple viral stories of celebrities and former employees of The Ellen Show accusing DeGeneres of being a fake toxic person who is “one of the meanest people in Hollywood”.

It’s important to recognize with these allegations, while they carried the similar themes and patterns of behaviour, were uncorroborated and could be classified as hearsay.

That said, it’s hard to avoid such shocking accusations from someone who has built an entire brand on the philosophy of, “Let’s be kind to one another”.

DeGeneres, who had already gotten plenty of backlash for claiming her multi-million-dollar mansion was like ‘jail’ during COVID isolation, as well as being accused of leaving her entire staff in the dark with massive pay cuts and lacking communication of what to expect once the pandemic hit, it’s safe to say that DeGeneres was expecting things couldn’t possibly get worse.

Well, don’t think that too soon, Ellen, because things just got worse.

The Ellen Show has some real explaining to do.

BuzzFeed has just released an exposé by Reporter Krystie Lee Yandoli which contains experiences and statements from 10 former employees and 1 current employee of The Ellen Show.

Former Employees Say Ellen's "Be Kind" Talk Show Mantra Masks A Toxic Work Culture

They have requested to remain anonymous because their careers in the entertainment industry could very well be sabotaged for speaking ill of The Ellen Show, NBC and DeGeneres herself.

For these 11 accusers, the Ellen DeGeneres brand is essentially all for show, and is a façade covering up a truly problematic work environment.

It’s also worth noting that there are stories within this exposé which are corroborated by other employees making the same claims, or reflecting on the same experiences.

With that said, corroboration of the stories does lend to further credibility of these accounts, which is important to note as we move forward with dissecting the serious allegations made.

Beginning with some of the newest accusations put forward, several employees spoke about how following a medical leave of absence or taking pre-approved time off to attend the funeral of a family member, they were disciplined for taking off time from work, and several were even fired without warning.

It’s ridiculous that this has to be said, but all employees are human beings with rights, and taking time off for very real human events (such as sickness or the tragic death of a loved one) should not be used as ammunition to fire someone who “isn’t dedicated enough to their work”. That is beyond absurd.

One of these former employees was medically admitted into a facility after a suicide attempt. This person said in the exposé:

“You’d think that if someone just tried to kill themselves, you don’t want to add any more stress to their lives. Some of the producers talk openly in public about addiction and mental health awareness, but they’re the reason there’s a stigma. They definitely don’t practice what they preach with the ‘be kind’ mantra.” via BuzzFeed News

Their account of the events that took place were corroborated by 4 other former employees, as well as medical records and paperwork from The Ellen Show.

Employee #2 in the exposé started a Go Fund Me page to help to pay for some medical expenses not covered by their work insurance. This employee was then called into Head Office and told to take the page down, as it reflected poorly on the show, could create bad press and could hurt Ellen’s image.

Or, you know… maybe as wealthy employers you can give your staff a living wage and adequate enough employee health insurance so that they can actually survive in their lives? That seems to be more on-brand with a “be kind” philosophy… don’t you think?

The onset culture is racist and discriminatory — full stop.

The most unsettling and disturbing account from the entire BuzzFeed article was from Employee #4, a former Black female staff member who had truly awful stories to share.

She eventually walked away from her job at the show after being berated and harassed for her race.

She goes on to explain that while she was working for The Ellen Show, she experienced plenty of racism, discrimination and micro-aggressions.

She worked for the show for over a year.

Some examples include a senior producer expressing that he hoped they wouldn’t get her and another employee confused because they both had box braids, and at a party, one of the main writers for the show apologized for not knowing her name, because he only knows the names of “White people” who worked for the show.

Yes. That’s right. Only remembers the names of White people.

What a f*cking horror-fest of racism and discriminatory behaviour.

She concluded that particular story with saying that none of her co-workers who witnessed this racist exchange came to her defence — they just laughed the comment off.

Which absolutely calls for shame on those co-workers.

But there is something to be said when racism is normalized in a workplace, or that staff don’t feel safe enough in their workplace to call out racist, sexist or inappropriate behaviour out of fear that they will be reprimanded or potentially lose their jobs if they speak up.

To add the final cherries on top of this truly abysmal, racist work environment, she stated in the exposé that when she spoke up about how lacking of representation there was on The Ellen Show, her colleagues jokingly named her the “PC Police”, and began distancing themselves from her the more she spoke up.

Among the other accusations, the one that really turned my stomach was when she was called to an executive producer’s office and was outwardly criticized for requesting that employees on-set undergo diversity and inclusion training.

A white, male executive producers reprimanding a female POC for suggesting that diversity training is required because employees are behaving in problematic and racist ways?

Oh yeah, not one single issue with that right there…

She finished off by saying that it was once she saw the race issues of Hollywood being brought to centre stage with the BLM movement that she felt compelled to come forward and tell the story of her experience.

And we’re sure as hell glad she did.

The allegations from these 11 accusers reflect the existing Twitter claims for problematic behaviour on Ellen’s part.

In one of the original claims, a former staff member stated that you were not allowed to look at or speak to DeGeneres — not even a simple hello.

Another tweet detailed an autistic custodian who loved to greet everybody he encountered, and was then fired for ‘annoying’ Ellen.

In the BuzzFeed article, a former staff member confirmed that managers were very firm in communicating that staff members were forbidden from greeting or making any eye contact with Ellen DeGeneres when she passed.

Ellen DeGeneres, who claims that we ‘must always be kind to one another’, refuses to make eye contact or acknowledge the behind-the-scenes staff who actually make her show the reality it is, and to go as smoothly as it can?

What an unbelievable insult and garbage way to behave.

Final word.

Some will argue that Ellen DeGeneres shouldn’t be put on blast for the misconduct of her staff members — but I remind you that that is not how it works. DeGeneres should absolutely be held responsible, because the buck stops with her.

Ellen doesn’t get to claim full responsibility for the positive parts of her show, while denying the negative — that’s not how it works. She doesn’t get to cherry pick in this case.

Her name is directly on the show — she is the brand of the show who makes all the final calls, for better or for worse.

As the ultimate voice of power, who is on set each and every day that recording takes place (pre-COVID), you can’t say she didn’t know. You can’t say she was out of the loop.

She actively chose either to not be in the loop, or chose to actively avoid toxicity in her work culture that she is responsible for setting the tone and expectations for.

When most of the accusations about the toxic work culture are conducted by managers, producers, and those in close contact with Ellen, it’s her job to regulate inappropriate behaviour and protect her staff who make her show actually exist.

If she chose not to intervene when she knew there were issues, she is at fault for that. If she didn’t know there were issues when mistreatment and racism were rampant on her set, she is still at fault for that.

And if you think that this is all slander, then you should know that the executive producers of The Ellen Show released the following statement:

“Over the course of nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes, and employing over 1,000 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.” via The Ellen Show Executive Producer Team

It’s important to note that there is no denial of these events ever taking place — some of the stories claiming to have taken place with these exact 3 executive producers.

So that, in itself, lends plenty of credibility to the likelihood of these stories (both from the original Twitter blast and the BuzzFeed exposé) are in fact true accounts, and not falsely made up.

Things are changing — change with the times, or be left behind by those who are working for better, safer and more inclusive work environments.

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