Three top executive producers for The Ellen DeGeneres Show have been fired amid allegations they engaged in blatant sexual harassment and used fear and intimidation to run the show.
Ellen DeGeneres on Monday announced the ousting of executive producers Ed Glavin and Kevin Leman, and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman in a videoconference call with the show's crew, and said an internal investigation into the workplace allegations would be completed soon, according to an employee who was in the meeting.
A spokesperson for Warner Bros. confirmed that Glavin, Leman, and Norman have "parted ways" with The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
In a prior statement to BuzzFeed News, Leman said he categorically denied "any kind of sexual impropriety." Norman also said he was "100% categorically denying these allegations." Glavin has not responded to requests for comment.
In the meeting, other executive producers said that DeGeneres "will be making rounds to smaller chats" with employees in the future. They also told staffers they're committed to eliminating a "culture of fear," they were "shocked" to hear about the allegations that employees weren't allowed to look at the host, and reinforced a direct line of communication to an HR representative, the source said.
In an email to staff obtained by BuzzFeed News, David McGuire, executive vice president of programming at Warner Bros., said, "We promised you change and a new culture, and we are absolutely committed to that."
"Many of you have spoken with WarnerMedia’s investigators, and we thank you for your honesty. And though the investigation is nearing its conclusion, our willingness to confidentially hear your thoughts is ongoing," he said.
"We heard loud and clear that communication needs to be better, at every level. The EPs are already taking steps to make our communication more frequent and effective," he added. "I hope this note is another way we are showing our commitment to do better."
The changes come after BuzzFeed News reported that five former employees said Glavin touched them in a way that made them uncomfortable by rubbing their shoulders and back, as well as placing his hand around their lower waist. Dozens of former employees also said Glavin “had a reputation for being handsy with women,” especially in the control room, and managed the team through fear and intimidation.
In addition to the allegations of inappropriate touching, 47 former employees told BuzzFeed News that Glavin led with intimidation and fear on a daily basis. Five of them also said they saw Glavin use a button at his desk to remotely shut his office door “as an intimidation tactic” during reprimands.
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Others said they were uncomfortable when Glavin used his private shower in his office bathroom.
“Before you even see his desk, you see his shower,” one former employee told BuzzFeed News. "He’d be openly showering and going into meetings with wet hair.”
One former employee told BuzzFeed News that Leman asked him if he could give him a hand job or perform oral sex in a bathroom at a company party in 2013. On a separate occasion in May 2017, another former employee said she saw Leman grope a production assistant in a car and kiss his neck.
Another former employee said Leman grabbed a production assistant’s penis in a separate incident.
Nearly a dozen former employees also said it was common for Leman to make sexually explicit comments in the office, asking other colleagues questions like, “Are you a top or a bottom?” and pointing out male employees’ bulges in their crotches.
The sexual harassment allegations came in response to an earlier BuzzFeed News report in which dozens of employees said they faced racism, fear, and intimidation at work. That report sparked an internal investigation that DeGeneres acknowledged in a letter to staff would be done to “correct the issues.”
A current Ellen Show employee told BuzzFeed News they were surprised to see DeGeneres address staffers in Monday's video conference call, and said the announcement left them feeling “optimistic and hopeful.”
“I think the employees who want to work here are excited for a new beginning. Those who were looking to jump ship are less likely,” the employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. “I’m very happy that new systems are being built and that hopefully real change is occurring, top to bottom.”
Former employees also said they were “shocked" the show took action in response to the misconduct allegations. One former employee said Ellen staffers “were living in fear of retribution for speaking out and for sharing these things that had been swept under the rug for so long.” But Monday's announcement is “a step in the right direction.”
“Getting rid of the toxic people at the top is the only way that that place is ever going to change, or the culture is ever going to change,” the former employee told BuzzFeed News. “It's a relief that people spoke up and people listened and decided to take action. It feels like justice has been served in some way.”