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Nursing couple stripped of Arizona jobs over Web site nudity

Tuesday, August 10, 1999

By Michael A. Fuoco, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Registered nurses George and Tracy Miller left the Pittsburgh area three years ago, looking for better job opportunities in Phoenix.

The former Neville Island couple found them.

Over the last three months, the Millers have earned about $52,000 from an X-rated Web site primarily featuring nude pictures of Tracy, 32, a Green Tree native, but also including pictures of her with George, 33, who grew up in Moon.

On the sexually explicit Web site, Tracy uses the name "Dakota Rae" and George uses the name "Jake."

The Millers, who said they operate the Web site in their off hours, started it about six months ago as a hobby. They said it is their first foray into sexually explicit media. But the demand for pictures was so great, the Millers said yesterday, they thought they could make a little extra money by charging subscriptions. The money was to be used for college for their children, a son, 11, and a daughter 5, they said.

"Basically, we just were looking for a little extra money," Tracy Miller said. "We thought it would be a cool thing to do."

"We would have been happy with $200 a month," said George, who like his wife received his nursing degree from Community College of Allegheny County.

They got more than that -- about 2,800 subscribers who pay $14.95 a month.

But their avocation has caused them to lose their vocations. Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn hospital fired them Aug. 5 from their jobs as on-call intensive care nurses, positions which earned them a total of $96,000 last year.

In termination papers, the hospital said the couple sexually harassed fellow employees and created a hostile work environment by trying to recruit employees to appear on the site -- an allegation the couple denies.

The Millers, who have garnered national media attention, said the real reason they were fired was because hospital officials didn't like the Web site, which became the talk of the hospital, and not because of anything job related.

Whether or not administrators like the Web site is not an issue because it is protected conduct under the First Amendment to the Constitution, said their attorney, Lawrence G. Walters of Winter Park, Fla. The Millers last week retained Walters, a First Amendment and labor law attorney who practices nationally.

"I don't feel they have a right to interfere with what we do on our own time as long it doesn't affect our jobs, and as far as nursing, I feel we always presented ourselves in a professional manner," said Tracy Miller, a Keystone Oaks High School graduate who formerly worked as a nurse at Sewickley Valley and The Western Pennsylvania hospitals.

The couple, who say families and true friends have supported them, have not shied away from media exposure.

The couple's free Web pages -- which solicit paid subscriptions and which the Millers said receive 50,000 hits daily -- feature a picture of a topless Tracy with the bold headline, "X-Rate Porno Nurse Fired!"

"A housewife...A nurse...A Web Goddess that enjoys sex live on the Internet," the page proclaims. "You've read about her, you've seen her on TV."

A reporter yesterday interviewed the couple by telephone from their Phoenix home where they were taping a segment on Comedy Central's "Jon Stewart Show."

The couple also has been featured in stories in numerous newspapers and carried by The Associated Press and Reuters news services, and have appeared on radio on the Howard Stern show and on the TV programs "Extra," "Inside Edition" and "Fox Files."

Yesterday morning, the couple was interviewed on KDKA Radio by Fred Honsberger.

Because of the hospital's firing, George Miller said, the couple has had no choice but to promote their cause. He maintained the couple's true profession is nursing, not sexually explicit videos.

Yesterday, they filed a formal appeal with the hospital, setting in motion the scheduling of separate administrative hearings. The Millers are seeking reinstatement with back pay and a public apology by hospital administrators.

Should they not get their jobs back, a lawsuit likely will be filed, having the potential of setting a national precedent, according to Walters, their attorney.

"This is going to be good," he said yesterday. "It's going to set a precedent for employers nationwide on the issue of whether they can punish people for what they do on their off time."

"They haven't violated any sexual harassment law, they're protected by the First Amendment... Reinstating the Millers will save the hospital substantial legal costs and embarrassment," he said.

"If anybody should be fired, it should be [other hospital] employees for using their work time to access sexually explicit material."

Hospital spokeswoman Kay Sperduti said she could not comment on the case because hospital policy forbids discussing a specific personnel matter.

The couple said they took their son aside and told him they had lost their jobs because there were nude pictures of his mother on a Web site. They said they didn't want him to hear it from someone else.

Moreover, they took aside parents of their son's friends to let them know about it.

"I don't think it's immoral," Tracy Miller said of her and her husband's Web site. "Some people might think so but that's their opinion.

"The people we've talked to are behind us. They might not agree with us but they still support us."

"It's the first time we've ever done anything like this," George Miller said.

"Throughout 14 years of marriage we've been monogamous and continue to be so."

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