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Attorney Describes Culture Of Harassment At Colchester-Based TV Stations

Two former employees of ABC 22 and Fox 44 both allege they faced sexual harassment and gender discrimination at the stations.
Two former employees of ABC 22 and Fox 44 both allege they faced sexual harassment and gender discrimination at the stations.

The attorney for two women suing a Colchester-based TV network characterizes the stations as having a culture of harassment that stemmed from the stations’ former general manager.

The two former employees of ABC 22 and Fox 44 allege they faced sexual harassment and gender discrimination and say they were forced to resign. Catherine Iraheta and Desiree Roberts are suing Nexstar Broadcasting, the stations' owner, as well as former general manager Craig Marrs.

Iraheta first brought the suit in February of this year. In October, Roberts sought to join the suit as a second plaintiff. That motion is currently before a Superior Court judge in Chittenden County. The attorney representing Nexstar and Marrs has opposed the motion, according to Theresa Underwood, senior vice president and regional manager for Nexstar.

Attorney John Stasny, who represents Iraheta and Roberts, said Craig Marrs, the stations’ former general manager, behaved inappropriately in the workplace.

“From the top down, that affected how other men in particular in the station treated women,” Stasny said.

Underwood, the regional manager for Nexstar, called Stasny’s representation of the station’s culture "untrue" and said the company has investigated the allegations thoroughly.

Additionally, Underwood offered a statement regarding a story published Monday in the Burlington Free Press:

“Monday’s article regarding harassment claims against Nexstar Broadcasting Inc., quoting excerpts from a complaint filed by the original plaintiff and from a proposed amended complaint that has not yet been allowed by the court, presents an inaccurate and sensationalized summary of unsworn allegations made by two women who were briefly employed at different times by our Burlington television station. Nexstar is vigorously defending against the allegations made by the plaintiff in the first lawsuit and intends to vigorously contest the allegations made in a proposed amended complaint if the amendment is allowed by the court.”

In the complaint, both Iraheta and Roberts describe situations in which they faced gender discrimination, harassment and retaliation when they complained about their treatment. Both claim they were forced to resign.

According to the complaint, Iraheta worked on the stations’ sales team from March to November of 2017. Iraheta alleges Marrs “berated and belittled” her during a meeting in the summer of 2017. In the same meeting, Iraheta alleges Marrs “stared down at her breasts and asked if she was wearing a bathing suit,” according to the complaint. Marrs later apologized for his conduct after Iraheta complained about his behavior to human resources, but Iraheta claims she faced a workplace that became ‘increasingly hostile and discriminatory.”

Roberts worked as a photographer at the stations from November 2017 through mid-summer of 2018. In the suit, Roberts claims she complained to the company’s human resources department about the behavior of a male colleague. After that complaint, Marrs appeared at a review of Roberts’ employment and “bullied” her, according to the lawsuit. Roberts’ assignments and work hours were then limited, and Roberts claims she was “effectively” forced to resign this past summer.

Attorneys for Nexstar and Marrs have asked a judge to dismiss the suit. The lawyer representing Marrs and Nexstar declined to comment on pending litigation.

Henry worked for Vermont Public as a reporter from 2017 to 2023.
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