The Toxic Work Environment at The Tonight Show: What Employees Can Do About Workplace Bullying

Nov 3 2023

Josh Goodbaum: Hi, Amanda.

Amanda DeMatteis: Hi, Josh. What are we gonna talk about today?

Goodbaum: Well, you know I love some celebrity gossip and I love when celebrity gossip overlaps with employment law, which is what we do.

So, I noticed a few weeks ago an exposé in Rolling Stone magazine about The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and the allegation that a number of employees there are making that Jimmy has created a toxic or hostile work environment.

And I thought it might be fun to ask: We know The Tonight Show films in L.A.; that’s where the folks work. But if The Tonight Show employees were employed here in Connecticut, what rights would they have, and what could they do about it if they felt like they were working in a hostile work environment?

DeMatteis: It’s funny this keeps coming up in Hollywood — think about Lizzo and Ellen DeGeneres — but it also continues to come up amongst Connecticut employees. So, the question that we get all the time is, “Hey, I’m working in this toxic work environment. I’m working in this hostile work environment. Is that illegal? Is my boss’s conduct of bullying me or acting out in various ways illegal?”

And the answer is typically no, it’s not. Unless, of course, your boss is treating you this way based on your membership in a particular protected class or your engagement in protected activity. Well, then state and/or federal laws may be triggered. But if it has nothing to do with that, and your boss is just kind of toxic to everyone and maybe he’s mean or maybe she’s just a bully, that doesn’t trigger protection under our state or federal laws.

Now, it may be different if you are a part of a union. Think about some of the folks that work for The Tonight Show — maybe the musicians or the writers or the camera operators. Those folks, just like some folks in Connecticut, may have union protection. And their job is governed under a collective bargaining agreement, right? And there may be protections there that exist. So, if you are a member of a union, take a look at your collective bargaining agreement.

But there’s a second piece to all of this. What if you complain about this conduct, right? What if you say, “I don’t want to work in this environment. I’m gonna complain to my boss’s boss or HR, whoever it may be.”

Well, if you complain about it individually – “I, Amanda, think this work environment is toxic” – that likely doesn’t trigger any protection for you. But if you complain about it on behalf of your non-supervisory coworkers and say, “Hey, this work environment is toxic for us and is a problem for us,” then you very well may be engaging in protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act. And then, if you are retaliated against for making a complaint like that, you very well may have a claim against your employer under the National Labor Relations Act because you engaged in concerted activity for the mutual aid or protection of your colleagues.

So, I hope that’s helpful. Of course, we hope you aren’t working in a toxic or hostile work environment. But unfortunately, we see this quite a bit.

Goodbaum: Really great information for folks in Connecticut, and maybe somebody who works at The Tonight Show is watching, Amanda. Thanks so much, and thank you all for watching. We’ll see you next time.

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josh goodbaum discussing the toxic work environment at the tonight show

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