As reported yesterday, WarnerMedia has opened an investigation into the workplace of The Ellen DeGeneres Show after employee allegations of different forms of harassment came to light. Just yesterday, Ellen finally addressed the issues and promised change. Today, even more employees are coming forward with dozens of claims of sexual harassment by top executive producers.
The former employees said they would like to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution if their complaints were discovered before proper investigation.
Head writer and executive producer Kevin Leman was the source of many complaints; one former employee claimed that he was asked for a hand job or oral sex at a company party in 2013. Another ex-employee accused Leman of grabbing a production assistant’s penis, while yet another claimed she saw Leman grope a production assistant in a vehicle and kiss his neck.
Nearly a dozen former employees interviewed by BuzzFeed, who ranged from senior-level employees to production assistants, said Leman commonly made sexually explicit comments in the office. Leman would reportedly point out male co-workers' crotches and asked questions like, “Are you a top or a bottom?” The employees cited many of his targets felt powerless to report him because they were lower-level or younger employees.
One former employee said, “It’s masked in sarcasm, but it’s not sarcasm.”
Leman has since denied these claims published by BuzzFeed, officially stating, "I started at the Ellen Show as a PA more than 17 years ago and have devoted my career to work my way to the position I now hold. While my job as head writer is to come up with jokes — and, during that process, we can occasionally push the envelope — I’m horrified that some of my attempts at humor may have caused offense...I have always aimed to treat everyone on the staff with kindness, inclusivity and respect. In my whole time on the show, to my knowledge, I’ve never had a single HR or inter-personal complaint made about me, and I am devastated beyond belief that this kind of malicious and misleading article could be published."
Other top-level employees accused of sexual harassment include executive producer Ed Glavin and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman. Norman cited that he has “never had a single complaint against [him] in [his] career.”
Former employees noted that there was no formal process to file confidential complaints and senior-level producers pressured them not to file complaints with HR.
A former employee said, “There was no clear direction that if something happens to you, you go to this person, it will remain confidential, and you will not be retaliated against."
Overall, 47 former employees have come forward to explain the behind-the-scenes toxic environment of The Ellen DeGeneres Show and are now specifying that the toxicity relates to sexual assault, harassment and misconduct. While some former employees say Ellen does not fully understand the problems behind her show, all are hoping for their claims to be fully investigated by WarnerMedia and changes made for the safety of future employees.