Until recently, “toxic” was about the last adjective anyone would use to describe comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. Now, dozens of former Ellen Show employees have revealed an atmosphere of rampant sexual harassment by executive producers. To date, 47 former employees have come forward with their accusations.
Racism, Fear, and Intimidation
Former staffers allege they faced “racism, fear and intimidation,” at work. Four executive producers – Kevin Leman, Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner – were the primary culprits.
Glavin allegedly had a way to shut his office door remotely from his desk if an employee was in his office for a reprimand, which was cited as a pure intimidation tactic.
He also made employees uncomfortable with his habit of taking showers in the bathroom adjacent to his office while employees waited to speak with him. He would leave the bathroom door open so they could see him showering.
Celebrities Weigh In
It is not just former staff members who found the work environment poisonous. Some celebrities and other well-known industry figures weighed in. TV writer Benjamin Siemon wrote that DeGeneres has a “sensitive nose,” so everyone coming into her office is required to chew gum available from a bowl outside her office before speaking with her. He adds that if she thought a staffer smelled funny, she would order them to go home and shower.
Everybody Loves Raymond star Brad Garrett said DeGeneres’ mean behavior toward underlings – and some celebs – was “common knowledge.” Actress Lea Thompson posted her agreement.
Male Sexual Harassment
Ex-staffers complained of constant sexual harassment involving the executive producers. Leman, who also serves as head writer, allegedly propositioned and groped employees. At a party, he was observed trying to grab a staffer’s penis, and another employee said Leman asked him to perform oral sex in a bathroom.
Roughly a dozen former employees recalled witnessing Leman make sexually explicit comments to other male staffers. He asked one worker if he was a “bottom or a top.” The men he targeted were generally lower-level staffers lacking any sort of power in the show’s structure.
Leman denies any sort of sexually inappropriate behavior.
Female Sexual Harassment
Female employees stated they experienced sexual harassment literally at the hands of Glavin. He is accused of frequently touching women, such as rubbing their backs and shoulders or putting his hands around their waists. The control room was a particularly risky place for young female staffers to find themselves with Glavin.
As one employee noted, the creepy touching was out in the open for everyone to see. If they complained about Glavin’s “handsiness,” the women would get fired.
No Complaint Process
There was no process in place for the filing of confidential complaints, according to ex-staffers. Senior producers urged employees not to file complaints with Warner Brothers, the show’s parent company.
What Did Ellen Know?
While some ex-staffers say DeGeneres was shielded by executives and may not have known the extent of the problem, others say it is a matter of her not wanting to know just how bad the environment had become. These former employees point out that she spent most of her time with the executive producers most at fault for creating a toxic workplace.
A Place of Happiness
In an email sent to staff members, DeGeneres apologized and wrote that on the first day of the show, she told everyone this would be “a place of happiness” where everyone was treated with respect. “Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case,” she wrote.
DeGeneres also wrote she would take on a more active role in running the show.
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