“Queen of Nice” Ellen DeGeneres faces staff revolt over her treatment during COVID-19 crisis

Ellen on the phone with Michelle Obama
Ellen on the phone with Michelle Obama Photo: Screenshot/Instagram

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include that DeGeneres’s contract was recently renewed.

Ellen DeGeneres, the “Queen of Nice,” has a not-so-nice issue. The cast and crew of her hit daytime talk show, The Ellen Degeneres Show, are speaking out about her callous treatment during the show’s shutdown thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

They say both DeGeneres and producers were non-communicative for weeks, slashed their pay when they did get in touch, and hired non-union outside workers to build a set for the show in DeGeneres’ home so she could continue taping without them.

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When DeGeneres resumed broadcasting, she said she “wanted to start doing my new show as soon as possible.” She claimed it was for “my staff and crew. I love them, I miss them, the best thing I can do to support them is to keep the show on the air.”

But the crew is now saying the opposite is actually true and accuse the host of ignoring them, hiring replacement workers, and slashing their pay.

Crew and staff say they were last paid in full for the week of March 16 and that for weeks after they were left unsure if they would be getting paid and, if so, how much. When they did hear from a Warner Brothers representative, they were told their pay would be reduced.

The pay was originally lowered by two hours of work compensation per day, but crew members say they were later told they would only be paid for 16 hours of work per week.

In the middle of the blackout on information from DeGeneres and producers, the crew was shocked to find out she had erected a set at her home and was taping new shows. They say they found out via social media.

Even worse, instead of calling up her own employees with the needed skills, DeGeneres paid a non-union company to do the work.

“Due to social distancing requirements, technical changes in the way the show is produced had to be made to comply with city ordinances and public health protocols,” a Warner Brothers spokesperson told NBC News.

They also said that no union members have lost their jobs as a result of the contract with the non-union company. That might not be a sign of the studio’s magnanimity, though – their union contract presumably bans simply firing the workers.

The workers also note that neither DeGeneres nor producers have bothered to check up on employees during the pandemic; some have worked for the show for almost two decades.

DeGeneres earns $50 million a year hosting the show, making her one of the highest-paid television stars in history. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President Barack Obama.

The comedian has previously indicated she’s ready to retire but is under contract until 2022.

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