The Ellen Show cannot catch a break, ever since March the show has taken hit after hit, first, it was the toxic work environment, then the claims of racism and now producers are under fire for bad behavior.
Thirty-six former employees have come forward to speak out against the harassment and sexual misconduct by top producers. What would seem like an ideal place to work in Hollywood; the Ellen Show is accused of being a place where sexual harassment and misconduct runs rampant, Buzzfeed News reports.
One ex-employee alleges head writer and executive producer Kevin Leman asked for a handjob or oral sex in a bathroom during a 2013 company party. Another accuses Leman of grabbing a production assistant’s penis.
These allegations follow a 2017 claim made by a different ex-employee who said she saw Leman grope a production assistant in a car and kiss him on his neck.
And it doesn’t stop there. Nearly a dozen more who range from longtime, senior-level employees to production assistants said it was not uncommon for Leman to make sexually explicit comments while in the office, which included pointing out male colleagues’ bulges in their crotches or asking, “are you a top or bottom?”
Although a former employee said it was “masked in sarcasm,” it was “not sarcasm.”
Leman is accused of targeting lower-ranked and younger employees who felt they lacked enough power to speak out.
“He’d probably do it in front of 10 people, and they’d laugh because ‘it’s just Kevin being Kevin,’ but if you’re in a position of power at a company, you don’t just get to touch me like that,” a former employee said.
After the release of Buzzfeed’s article, Leman categorically denied “any kind of sexual impropriety.”
“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,” he said. “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.”
Ed Galvin, another executive producer for the show, “had a reputation for being handsy with woman,” Us Weekly reports. Many former employees said he managed the staff through fear and intimidation on a daily basis. Variety reported on Thursday that he is set to depart from the show imminently, he has not publicly responded.
Co-executive producer Johnathan Norman has also been accused by a former employee who claims he groomed him and attempted to perform oral sex on him. Norman denies those claims. “I have never done anything to harm another staff member. Ever.” He says the staffer has ulterior motives to bring the show down.
Some of the accusers think Ellen,62, is unaware of what goes on behind the scenes, while others say she turns a blind eye.
“She knows,” one former employee said. “She knows s–t goes on, but also she doesn’t want to hear it.”
Ellen addressed the reports for the first time in an open letter to her staff on Thursday, writing in part, “I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or — worse — disregarded. To think that any one of you felt that way is awful to me.”
Warner Bros. released a statement regarding its recently launched internal investigation and said the preliminary findings “indicated some deficiencies related to the show’s day-to-day management.” And the studio hopes to “determine the validity and extent of publicly reported allegations and to understand the full breadth of the show’s day-to-day culture.”