Former "Late Night" Writer Claims Sexual Favoritism Created a Hostile Workplace

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Oct. 27 2009, Published 7:50 a.m. ET

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Ex-employee of Late Night with David Letterman, Nell Scovell, is delving into her own experiences at the show in a short but detailed essay in Vanity Fair about her time there, working in what she calls a "hostile, sexually charged atmosphere" and what she hopes will change in the future.

Nell was hired in 1990 and was only the second female writer ever hired to work for the Late Night. In fact, Nell wrote that out of the 50 writers writing for the Late Night with David Letterman, The Jay Leno Show and The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien none are women.

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Nell summed up her experience working for the show for less than a year as a "hostile work environment" due to sexual favoritism "creating an atmosphere that is demeaning to women."

Nell didn't hold back answering all the questions people have about the work environment at the Late Night.

"Let’s address the pertinent questions," Nell wrote. "Did Dave hit on me? No. Did he pay me enough extra attention that it was noted by another writer? Yes. Was I aware of rumors that Dave was having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes. Was I aware that other high-level male employees were having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes. Did these female staffers have access to information and wield power disproportionate to their job titles? Yes. Did that create a hostile work environment? Yes. Did I believe these female staffers were benefiting professionally from their personal relationships? Yes. Did that make me feel demeaned? Completely. Did I say anything at the time? Sadly, no."

David Letterman

Nell decided that she wasn't going to "thrive professionally in that workplace" and had moved on until the alleged extortion plot broke.

"I decided to speak up now for three reasons," Nell explained. "1. People who have no knowledge of the situation are voicing opinions, so why not me? 2. Letterman himself opened this up to a public discussion. 3. I’d like to pivot the discussion away from the bedroom and toward the writers’ room, because it pains me that almost 20 years later, the situation for female writers in late-night-TV hasn’t improved."

"Now, I don’t want a lawsuit," she added, "I don’t want compensation. I don’t want revenge. I don’t want Dave to go down (oh, grow up, people)."

"I just want Dave to hire some qualified female writers and then treat them with respect," Nell argued. "And that goes for Jay and Conan, too."


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