Ellen DeGeneres breaks silence on 'toxic' workplace complaints in show's season premiere

WATCH: Ellen DeGeneres addressed allegations that came to light over the summer months from her staff, some of whom called the workplace environment "toxic," as her show returned to the airwaves for a new season.

Over the summer, reports came out via BuzzFeed and The Hollywood Reporter with accounts about alleged “toxic” experiences working on The Ellen DeGeneres Show by past and current employees.

On Monday’s season premiere of the show, host Ellen DeGeneres finally publicly addressed the complaints after remaining mum for months. (She did send a letter to the show’s crew in late July, but until the premiere had not spoken publicly about it.)

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In her opening monologue, DeGeneres started off with a crack about her summer being “great.”

She apologized to anyone who may have experienced a negative encounter while working for her, and vowed that she’s now “taking responsibility for what happens at my show.”

“As you may have heard, this summer there were allegations of a toxic work environment at our show and then there was an investigation,” she said.

“I learned that things happened here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously and I want to say I am so sorry to the people that were affected. I know that I am in a position of privilege and power and with that comes responsibility and I take responsibility for what happens at my show.”

DeGeneres said the show has made “the necessary changes”; in a tweet, the show said it is “starting a new chapter,” though she didn’t go into detail about what changes, if any, have been made.

“We have had a lot of conversations over the last few weeks about the show, the workplace and what we want for the future. We have made the necessary changes and today we are starting a new chapter,” she said.

“Being known as the ‘be kind’ lady is a tricky position to be in, so let me give you some advice out there if anybody’s thinking of changing their title or giving yourself a nickname, do not go with the ‘be kind’ lady. Don’t do it. The truth is I am that person that you see on TV.”

In its earlier report, BuzzFeed spoke with 10 former employees of The Ellen DeGeneres Show who claimed they were “fired after taking medical leave or bereavement days to attend family funerals.”

The employees also told the outlet that they were “instructed by their direct managers to not speak to DeGeneres if they saw her around the office.”

“Most of the former employees blamed executive producers and other senior managers for the day-to-day toxicity, but one former employee said that, ultimately, it’s Ellen’s name on the show and ‘she really needs to take more responsibility’ for the workplace environment,” BuzzFeed’s report added.

Former and current employees also said that they faced intimidation, racism and fear behind the scenes of the show.

In her previous letter to the crew, DeGeneres didn’t get into any specific allegations or incidents, but she stated that “we are taking steps, together, to correct the issues.”

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“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,” wrote DeGeneres. “Clearly some didn’t. That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.”

In a statement, parent company WarnerMedia revealed some details about the ongoing investigation, saying the entity had interviewed “dozens of current and former employees” and found “deficiencies” in how The Ellen Show was run.

The company also referred to “several staffing changes made” without giving any specifics.

In its later report, BuzzFeed says it spoke to “dozens of men and women” who work on the show, and their allegations range from groping to inappropriate sexual comments to intimidation. Individuals directly accused included the Ellen Show‘s executive producer Kevin Leman, executive producer Ed Glavin and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman.

Leman categorically denied “any kind of sexual impropriety,” Norman said he is “100 per cent categorically denying these allegations,” while Glavin has not publicly commented on the accusations.

This marks the 18th season of DeGeneres’ show.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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