'The Ellen DeGeneres Show' under investigation for 'toxic' work culture

Current and former employees will be interviewed about their experiences on set, several reports say

FILE- This Sept. 26, 2011, file photo, originally provided by Warner Bros., shows Ellen DeGeneres during a taping of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in Burbank, Calif. The Kennedy Center in Washington is awarding DeGeneres the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Oct. 22. The show will be broadcast on PBS stations Oct. 30. (AP Photo/Warner Bros., Michael Rozman, File)
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The workplace environment of The Ellen DeGeneres Show is under investigation, following reports of racism and bullying.

WarnerMedia has started an investigation into the popular chat show, helmed by comedian Ellen DeGeneres, several reports say.

Executives from the Warner Bros television and production company Telepictures confirmed the investigation to the show's employees by letter last week, The New York Times reports.

The memo stated that a third party firm "will interview current and former staffers about their experiences on set", sources told Variety.

The investigation follows several reports of a "toxic" work culture at Emmy Award-winning The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

A BuzzFeed report published on July 16 alleged that employees were sacked after taking sick leave or compassionate leave to attend family funerals.

The article, which featured interviews with one current and 10 former employees of the show, also alleged that an unnamed writer on the show told a black employee: “I’m sorry, I only know the names of the white people who work here."

The show's executive producers, Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner, issued a statement regarding the allegations, saying they took the claims "very seriously".

"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," they said. "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."

We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience

The trio confirmed that the responsibility of the Ellen show is "completely on us".

"We take all of this very seriously and we realise, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better and we will do better."

The show, which was first broadcast in 2003 and has attracted guests such as Michelle Obama and Brad Pitt, suspended production in March for a number of weeks because of the coronavirus crisis. It has since resumed filming, but without a studio audience.

In 2019, DeGeneres signed a contract renewing the show for three more years, through to 2022.

Warner Bros Television and DeGeneres have not yet commented on the investigation.