After reports of workplace abuse, the head writer for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and her top executive producers have all been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct.
According to BuzzFeed News, several former employees claim that head writer and executive producer Kevin Leman had sexually propositioned lower-level employees or groped them.
“One ex-employee said head writer and executive producer Kevin Leman asked him if he could give him a handjob or perform oral sex in a bathroom at a company party in 2013. Another said they separately saw Leman grab a production assistant’s penis,” BuzzFeed reported. “In May 2017, another former employee also said she saw Leman grope a production assistant in a car and kiss his neck.”
“Nearly a dozen former employees, who range from longtime, senior-level employees to production assistants, said it was also common for Leman to make sexually explicit comments in the office, like pointing out male colleagues’ bulges in their crotches, or ask them questions like, ‘Are you a top or a bottom?'” the report continued.
A former employee said that Kevin’s comments were often “masked in sarcasm” to soften their delivery.
“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.
For his part, Kevin Leman has categorically denied “any kind of sexual impropriety,” arguing that his sense of humor may have at times made people feel uncomfortable.
“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,” said Leman. “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.”
As many as 36 former employees independently corroborated the allegations against Leman and other top producers. WarnerBros. issued no comment, only citing a recently launched investigation to uncover workplace abuses.
Along with Kevin Leman, five former employees have accused executive producer Ed Glavin of making “them uncomfortable by rubbing their shoulders and back, as well as placing his hand around their lower waist.” Other employees also allege that Glavin “had a reputation for being handsy with women.”
“You could definitely see the creep factor and the creepy touching. That was out in the open for everybody to see,” said one former employee. “Obviously, no one wants that and no one wants to be uncomfortably touched by someone … but you didn’t want to piss them off or you would be fired, so it was just that culture of fear.”
Another former employee accused Glavin of asking producers and assistants to sit beside him in the control room where he would touch them inappropriately.
“Even though I was being abused [at work] constantly, Ed putting his arm around you in the control room was like the nicest experience you had all day, as messed up as that sounds,” she said. “But you had been crying last night and now your segment is going well … and then you feel like you got credit for something from the executive producer directly. … That friendly banter accompanied by a friendly hand.”
A total of 47 former employees accused of Glavin of fostering a culture of fear and intimidation on a daily basis. Some even said he would use his private shower in his office bathroom with the door wide open.
“You’d be going into his office for an important meeting and the shower door is open and you’re like, that’s a little weird,” a former employee said. “The shower is right when you walk in on the right. Before you even see his desk, you see his shower. He’d be openly showering and going into meetings with wet hair.”
Another former employee also accused co-executive producer Jonathan Norman of grooming him over a period of time by “taking him to concerts and other work-related perks, and then one night attempted to perform oral sex on him.”
“We’re young people who were forming our careers and were unfortunately subjected to a toxic work environment as some of our first jobs out of college,” the former employee said. “And some of us were sexually harassed and that’s what was shaping our careers our first year out of school.”
Norman said he is “100% categorically denying these allegations.”
“I have never had a single complaint against me in my career. I have never ‘groomed’ anyone,” he said. “I have never done anything to harm another staff member. Ever. The person I believe you are referring to has ulterior motives for bringing down the show and has been acting with malice towards the show.”
Beyond the alleged abuse, other employees said they had no avenue to file complaints and would face intimidation if they went to Human Resources.
“There was no such thing as a confidential conversation,” 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.”
“Warner Brothers has a responsibility not just to the people who work on The Ellen Show, but to its viewers and its shareholders to make sure people are protected on the job, and that they’re not harassed, and they’re not working in an environment that is toxic and unhealthy,” another former employee said.
On Thursday, Ellen DeGeneres issued a public apology to her staff, asserting she was not aware of the toxic work culture that pervaded under her.
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