‘Ellen’ Show Ups Staff Perks, Spreads New Message in Return to Work: ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Matt Donnelly
·3-min read

“The Ellen DeGeneres Show” has implemented several new perks for its weary staff, including increased paid time off and a liberal medical leave policy, following a dramatic address from the daytime host on Monday.

Staffers will receive five paid days off to use at their discretion, birthdays off, and paid time for doctors appointments and family matters, one source familiar with the series told Variety. The news was delivered by “Ellen” senior producers Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner at a Monday virtual town hall, which saw a teary DeGeneres apologize to employees for months of damaging reports and accused on-set toxicity that occurred “on her watch,” another insider familiar with her remarks said.

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A WarnerMedia spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.

In addition to firing a trio of top producers — Ed Glavin, Jonathan Norman and Kevin Leman — who were accused of sexual misconduct in a July report from BuzzFeed, DeGeneres addressed poor communication with her crew, first reported by Variety in April. On the call, the Emmy winner said she had only learned of the issues by reading Variety, which left her “heartbroken,” according to sources.

Insiders said the new perks and a direct address from DeGeneres have improved morale this week, as rehearsals for DeGeneres’ spinoff show “Ellens’ Game of Games” resumed, and the talk show team began waking up production offices and sound stages.

A human resources executive provided by “Ellen” distributor WarnerMedia has already begun work and has attended several zoom meetings, another insider said. The executive does not report to show leadership, providing anonymity to workers with grievances and a dedicated advocate.

Connelly and Lassner told staff plainly “don’t be afraid,” during the call. Sources said this applied to communication about workplace issues, circumstances surrounding the pandemic, or even rumors that no one should make eye contact with DeGeneres (which she denied).

The ousted producers were accused of sexual harassment and racism, as well as fostering an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Only Leman responded to his termination through an attorney, saying he was being “scapegoated.” The producers were dismissed less than a month after a formal investigation into the show was launched by WarnerMedia.

In April, longtime crew members were told to expect salary reductions, even as the show continued to produce the same amount of episodes in quarantine with the use of non-union workers, Variety reported. At the time, a Warner Bros. Television spokesperson said communication could have been better, and the union crew was restored to full pay just before the original report was published.

The most meaningful gesture for employees, according to one individual on the lot, was DeGeneres breaking her silence.

“It was important to know what and how much she knew,” said a source of the workplace culture. “Because many of us really believe in her.”

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