The cloud hanging over Ellen DeGeneres has darkened as her staff voice their outrage over alleged poor treatment during the coronavirus crisis.
DeGeneres is currently running her daytime talk show from her $45 million Beverly Hills mansion, having sent her staff home to abide by California’s coronavirus lockdown.
“I wish I hadn’t. I miss them,” the star recently said in a tearful video – but accounts from staff reveal they have been dismissed and ignored for weeks on end.
According to two sources who spoke to Variety under condition of anonymity, for more than a month the core stage crew of more than 30 employees received no written communication about their working hours or pay.
They also received no inquiries about their mental and physical health from producers during this time – although DeGeneres regularly makes the effort to “check in” with her fans over social media.
In her first remote episode of The Ellen Show, DeGeneres claimed that she was doing it for “her staff and crew”, adding that she loves them “and the best way I can support them is to keep the show on air”.
But it has now emerged that only four core crew members are currently working on the remote version of the broadcast, and that an outside, non-union tech company has instead been hired to help her film at home.
Crew members were reportedly “shocked” to learn that a remote set was being constructed at DeGeneres’ mansion, which they discovered via social media posts from colleagues in other departments.
When they desperately asked about their employment situation, it is said that senior production staff would occasionally answer their phone calls but revealed little.
They reported a “blackout” during which their employers refused to give any information about their pay, and say that communication from producers was “sporadic” and lacking in information both before and after this period.
Insiders revealed that when executives finally weighed in last week, nearly all crew members were told to brace for a 60 per cent reduction in pay, even as the show continues to air.
On average, the show typically films four 10-hour workdays per week, but the crew was told on April 10 that they should expect to be paid for just two eight-hour days a week.
Staff are reportedly “incensed” by their treatment and the lack of personal outreach from show leadership, which they say is totally inconsistent with DeGeneres’ reputation for kindness and generosity.
A spokesperson for Warner Bros Television, which distributes the show, told Variety: “Our executive producers and Telepictures are committed to taking care of our staff and crew and have made decisions first and foremost with them in mind.”
The studio reiterated the crew has been paid consistently, though at reduced hours.
In contrast, Variety learned that stage hands on Jimmy Kimmel Live! were paid from host Kimmel’s own pocket during initial COVID-19 shutdown, and since returning to the air the show’s network ABC is paying their full rates.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, and Desus & Mero have also all had transparent communication and are paying full rates, sources said.