Warner Bros. executives addressed the allegations Thursday against executives at TMZ and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” made by a number of former and current employees.
“I am both concerned and disappointed by public reports regarding patterns of unacceptable behavior that have been raised in recent weeks,” WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar told staff in an email, according to BuzzFeed News.
Warner Bros. CEO Ann Sarnoff spoke out about the issue in a memo, saying she “empowered, and will hold accountable, the Studios and Networks HR and Legal teams to act on any issues that are brought to them. These groups are a safe harbor where you can register any concerns.”
These statements come after dozens of allegations have been made, including of verbal abuse, racism and sexism in the TMZ newsroom, as well as sexual harassment and misconduct and general toxicity behind the scenes at “Ellen.”
One current employee told BuzzFeed that TMZ co-founder Harvey Levin and other Warner Bros. executives have not addressed the employees’ concerns, expressing that staffers feel they are not being taken seriously.
The employee came forward after Bernadette Zilio, a former TMZ and TooFab employee, filed a lawsuit against the news outlet, claiming she was fired after complaining about sexism.
Zilio worked for the websites between 2015 and 2020, and described the work environment as “100% a bro fest,” likening it to a frat house in papers she filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Los Angeles. She was fired in February.
A spokesperson for TMZ told BuzzFeed the claims were “a blatant attempt to use negative publicity and inaccurate claims to force TooFab and TMZ to pay a monetary settlement.”
“TMZ has a history of doing this — sweeping things under the rug and thinking that the news will move on to something else,” a current employee anonymously told BuzzFeed.
Kilar included in his message that it will be a requirement to all existing and prospective partners “that people be treated with dignity … Our intention [is] to sever ties where patterns of behavior are at odds with that requirement.”
These messages also come days before “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is scheduled to begin a new season.
Three senior producers at the show — Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman and Jonathan Norman — were fired in August following the allegations.
In response, DeGeneres is increasing perks for her employees, including increased paid time off and birthdays off. She wrote in an apology memo that she hopes to “correct” the issues about the behavior on her show, and plans to address the behavior with her viewers when her show returns Sept. 21.
Kilar also claimed Warner Bros. is involving a third party to objectively review odd patterns of behavior in their productions.