The Ellen DeGeneres Show is under internal investigation by WarnerMedia following numerous accusations of workplace problems.

According to Variety, executives from show producer Telepictures and distributor Warner Bros. Television sent a memo to current and former staff members, advising them that WBTV-owner WarnerMedia’s employee relations group and a third-party firm will be conducting interviews with them about their experiences on set.

The investigation comes in the wake of accusations that the Emmy Award-winning series – which has been on the air since 2003 – has become a toxic work environment for its staffers.

During the initial coronavirus lockdown in April, Variety reported that the core stage crew heard nothing from their bosses for weeks other than to expect a significant decrease in their pay, leaving them with anxiety and uncertainty on whether they should apply for unemployment benefits.

BuzzFeedNews also released a exposé earlier this month, in which one current and 10 former employees revealed that they were subject to a culture of racism, fear and intimidation, with one stating that the host’s mantra to be kind is “bullshit” and “only happens when the cameras are on.”

A Black woman who worked on the series for a year and a half said she experienced racist comments, actions and “microaggressions,” and that when she was hired, a senior-level producer told her and another Black employee, “Oh wow, you both have box braids; I hope we don’t get you confused.”

At a work party, one of the main writers reportedly said to her, “I’m sorry, I only know the names of the white people who work here.” Her fellow co-workers “awkwardly laughed it off” instead of defending her.

In a joint statement to BuzzFeed News, executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner responded: “Over the course of nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes, and employing over 1000 staff members, we have strived to create an open, safe, and inclusive work environment.

“We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience. It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us. For the record, the day to day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us.

“We take all of this very seriously and we realize, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better.”

There have been rumours for years about Ellen’s behaviour behind the scenes. Earlier this year, comedian Kevin T. Porter asked Twitter users to share “the most insane stories you’ve heard about Ellen being mean,” which received more than 2.7k responses.

Benjamin Siemon, a writer and actor who appeared on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, said Ellen has a “sensitive nose” so everyone must “chew gum from a bowl outside her office before talking to her,” and if “she thinks you smell that day you have to go home and shower.”

Related: Elton John defends Ellen DeGeneres over friendship with George Bush.