The Ellen DeGeneres Show will address the recent controversy surrounding the series in the upcoming season 18 premiere.

Earlier this year, the Emmy-winning talk show – which has been on the air since 2003 – was accused of being a toxic work environment for its staffers.

BuzzFeedNews released an exposé, 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 also said she experienced racist comments, actions and “microaggressions”.

In July, Ellen issued a memo to her staffers after an internal investigation found “deficiencies related to the show’s day-to-day management”. Three of the show’s top producers, Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman and Jonathan Norman, were also sacked.

“On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen DeGeneres Show would be a place of happiness – no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect,” she said.

“Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry. Anyone who knows me knows it’s the opposite of what I believe and what I hoped for our show.

“As someone who was judged and nearly lost everything for just being who I am, I truly understand and have deep compassion for those being looked at differently, or treated unfairly, not equal, or – worse – disregarded. To think that any one of you felt that way is awful to me.”

She concluded the memo by saying she’s “so proud” of their work on the show and that if it weren’t for lockdown, she would have issued this apology in person.

As Ellen announced the return date of the series, which she confirmed as 21 September, she revealed: “I can’t wait to get back to work and back to our studio. And, yes, we’re gonna talk about it.”

In a previous statement, Warner Bros said the company and Ellen are “all committed to ensuring a workplace based on respect and inclusion,” and are “confident this course of action will lead us to the right way forward for the show.”

The guest for the season 18 premiere will be Tiffany Haddish, with subsequent appearances from Kerry Washington, Alec Baldwin and Chrissy Teigen.

Stephen “tWitch” Boss, the show’s new co-executive producer, is also set to guest-host episodes during the new season.

Related: Michelle Obama defends Ellen DeGeneres over friendship with George Bush.