A top story in the news these past few weeks has been of claims by both current and former employees of the popular daytime show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”. They claim they were subjected to a hostile and “toxic” work environment, including claims of alleged sexual misconduct and race discrimination. The complaints from these employees led to an internal workplace investigation being conducted by the show’s distributor WarnerMedia.
This blog provides an overview of these claims and tips for employers to conduct effective workplace investigations.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show Misconduct Allegations
This issue gained national attention after anonymous employees, both former and current, spoke with Buzzfeed News about their negative experiences on the show regarding sexual misconduct, harassment, racism, and more. The majority of these accusations have involved high-level members of Ellen DeGeneres’s show, including Executive Producers Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman, and Jonathan Norman. Last week, DeGeneres apologized in a letter to her staff, stating:
“Hey everybody — it’s Ellen. On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen DeGeneres Show would be a place of happiness — no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case,” she began. “And for that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show.”
Conducting Effective Workplace Investigations
As the show’s team prepares to return to work, WarnerMedia is conducting an internal investigation amid these allegations. The investigation will help them determine if any disciplinary action should issue, and if so, in what form. Disciplinary action can include termination, demotion, reduction in salary, and or other forms of discipline.
Here are a few tips for conducting effective workplace investigations:
- The investigation should be immediate and prompt.
- The investigation should be conducted by an independent, third-party.
- The investigation should be thorough. This means it should include interviews with all complaining parties, witnesses, and those being accused of the alleged misconduct.
- The investigation should be impartial and unbiased.
- The investigation should make findings as to whether, based on a preponderance of the evidence (just a hair – 51% of the evidence or more), the alleged misconduct is likely to have occurred or not. Are the allegations founded or unfounded?
- Based on the findings of the investigation, the employer should determine if any remedial or disciplinary action is necessary, which could include the termination or other discipline of the individuals involved. Remedial action also may include training, coaching, mediation, and other tools designed to help get the workplace back to a positive place.
- It is important that during and following the investigation, the employer does not do anything toward any employee involved with or connected with the investigation that is or may appear to be retaliatory.
Experienced Employment Law Attorney, Mediator, Arbitrator, Investigator, Legal and Media Commentator
Angela Reddock-Wright was recently interviewed by Yahoo! Entertainment, where she further discusses the legal side of this investigation. On August 5, 2020, she also appeared on CBS’s Entertainment Tonight to provide further insights about the show and the internal investigation.
Angela Reddock-Wright is an employment and labor law attorney, certified workplace and Title IX investigator (AWI-CH), mediator, and arbitrator in Los Angeles, CA. Known as the “Workplace Guru,” Angela is an influencer and leading authority on employment, workplace/HR, Title IX, hazing, and bullying issues.
Angela is a regular legal and media commentator and analyst and has appeared on such media outlets as Entertainment Tonight, Law and Crime with Brian Ross, Court TV, CNN, ABC, CBS, KTLA-5, the Black News Channel, Fox Soul – The Black Report, NPR, KPCC, Airtalk-89.3, KJLH Front Page with Dominique DiPrima, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, People Magazine, Essence Magazine, the Los Angeles Sentinel, LA Focus, Our Weekly and the Wave Newspapers.
Angela also is a member of the panel of distinguished mediators and arbitrators with Judicate West, a California company that represents the gold standard in dispute resolution. She also owns her own law firm, the Reddock Law Group of Los Angeles, specializing in workplace and Title IX discrimination, harassment, and sexual assault investigations.
This communication is not legal advice. It is educational only. For legal advice, consult with an experienced employment law attorney in your state or city.