Nicole Mitchell Sues The Weather Channel Regarding USERRA Complaint

Former Weather Channel Meteorologist Nicole Mitchell was suing The Weather Channel, but is now in arbitration regarding USERRA discrimination. USERRA is an acronym for the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. Mitchell posted this on her Facebook page today…

First, thank you all for your continued support since my departure from TWC. We are making my lawsuit public because there is a much larger issue of military discrimination and legal protections that need public attention.

I talk about these issues in our press conference along with what happened at TWC, and I would be honored if you guys would support and help share this important information. (Translation…repost at will!) Thank you!

This is a partial answer to many questions you guys have asked about what happened at TWC. We finally went forward and spoke to the press today, which was nerve-wracking, and I will post the link to that conference when it is available…..

For Immediate Release

WEATHER CHANNEL SUED FOR MILITARY DISCRIMINATION

Air Force Reserve “Hurricane Hunter” Harassed, Loses Job over Service to Country

Atlanta, GA – June 4, 2012 – Air Force Reserve Officer Nicole Mitchell, formerly an on-air meteorologist for The Weather Channel (TWC), has filed suit against her former employers TWC, NBC/Universal and the private equity firms Bain Capital and the Blackstone Group. The suit comes after a pattern of unfair and discriminatory treatment by the network and its owners, who complained about being forced to schedule around Captain Mitchell’s military service.

Captain Mitchell, now a Major select, is a highly decorated officer who flies as a Weather Officer with the famed “Hurricane Hunters.” She brings suit under The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (“USERRA”) which prohibits discrimination and retaliation against service members due to their military obligations.

Mitchell was a popular meteorologist on the TWC’s top-rated morning show, “Your Weather Today,” where her military expertise contributed greatly to the network’s hurricane coverage and revenue. After TWC was purchased by NBC/Universal, Bain Capital, and the Blackstone Group in 2008, Mitchell was told by the new management that her military schedule “impacts everyone.” She was harassed for meeting her military obligations, told to clear any military assignments in advance, removed from “Your Weather Today,” and subsequently moved to less desirable shifts. Eventually she was that told there was no longer a place for her at TWC. Management cited “business reasons” and confirmed there were no performance or ratings issues with Mitchell.

The Weather Channel is now attempting to profit off of Mitchell’s own Squadron with a reality show about the Hurricane Hunters. In the series, TWC promises to emphasize the vital role played by the Hurricane Hunters who supply information to the National Hurricane Center from inside the storms. According to TWC, the show will feature those who “risk their own lives” for those whose “lives depend on them.” After dismissing Captain Mitchell for alleged “business reasons,” TWC avoided filming her during this series. Additionally, NBC/Universal is now a sponsor of the “Got Your 6” campaign, publicly vowing to support veterans, despite allowing NBC/Universal staff and managers to harass and then terminate the employment of a military veteran because it found her military service inconvenient.

The case is now headed into arbitration after TWC, NBC/Universal, Bain Capital and The Blackstone Group refused to allow the case to proceed in the Federal District Court and moved to enforce an arbitration clause. Forcing USERRA cases into arbitration is a problem. This is a distinct disadvantage to military members due to the costs, the intricacies of these cases, the effect of military regulations upon their duties, and the lack of any appeal process. Two United States Senators have introduced legislation, the Servicemember Employment Protection Act of 2012 (Pryor, AR) and the Servicemember’s Access to Justice Act (Casey, PA), that would render arbitration clauses invalid in USERRA cases and guarantee military members the right to have their cases heard in federal court. Mitchell hopes her case will raise awareness of military employment discrimination and the need to improve USERRA protections, so that other veterans do not have to go through what she has experienced.

Here’s the video…

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28 Responses to “Nicole Mitchell Sues The Weather Channel Regarding USERRA Complaint”

  1. TWC will never be on any telly that I have anything to do with again.

  2. Sounds like another succesful Bain venture. Swell people.

  3. Do you need a spoon to stir that?

  4. “Hey, it’s just business. Thanks for serving your country and bringing us an idea for a show. Now scram.”

  5. A concept no doubt invented by Bain Capital. Right.

  6. It’s a concept invented by greedy bastards who subjugate everything to a bottom line which squeezes employees in service to enriching the fat cats at the top. And screws a woman serving her country honorably in the process. It’s not right.

  7. I’ll go back to agreeing with Al. Fewer non sequiturs involved.

  8. I think people blocking TWC on their televisions is a knee-jerk reaction. I find it very hard to believe that TWC (and any ratings-obsessed media organization like them and NBC) would want to dump someone who is 1) popular, 2) smart, 3) a Hurricane Hunter, and 4) a reservist/veteran (in no particular order by the way) without a really good reason. If it’s business, it’s business.

    In addition, by exercising the arbitration provision of the law/contract, NBC/TWC is doing exactly what any other company would do in order to avoid a tort claim in federal court that could cost millions. In fact, the provision for arbitration was put there for that very reason, to avoid clogging the congested federal district and circuit courts with an onslaught of claims that could easily be funneled to a more specialized group that can handle the legalities of said grievances (in current popular terms, Republicans call this tort reform type stuff). Federal employees can’t bring claims either to the federal circuit either, they must go through a similarly mandated federal employee arbitrator.

    The Supreme Court has said on numerous occasions (including during its current OT2011 sitting) that it prefers cases be sent to arbitration first and then brought to the district/circuit court only if a constitutional issue is unable to be resolved by the arbitration panel.

    The song and dance press release screams media whore by the way. Just my 2 cents. Trying to piggy back her personal woes under the guise of a very legitimate issue for our veterans and returning troops is also tacky. The issue facing our veterans is completely different than her complaint that she won’t have a federal courtroom to air her grievances in. Shame on her.

  9. imnotblue Says:

    Out of curiosity, Joe… why do you explicitly blame Bain for this? They, as their name would imply, seem to be investors in the TWC purchase/ownership, not actual managers.

    Plus, there are two other groups… the Blackstone Group (another financial group), and NBC Universal (the television folks).

    Is it because you recognize the word “Bain” and therefore… just kneejerk all over the place. Or is it because the people actually making the decisions, managing the daily operations, and handling the television portion of TWC is NBC… and lordy-lordy a good Liberal like yourself would never criticize NBC. I mean, not without NBC (or more aptly another one of their properties, MSNBC) first telling you to do so.

    Pretty lame, Joe. Even for you.

  10. Bain, Universal, Blackstone, take your pick. The policy change came when they took over. To assume I absolve NBC of culpability because of ideology is silly. The article clearly states the change came after their ownership did.

  11. imnotblue Says:

    ^ And yet, in your comment, you only mentioned ONE of them.
    Why is that?

  12. Duh, Blue, I mentioned the one currently prominent in the news for this kind of “lean and mean” approach to business. It’s topical.

  13. icemannyr Says:

    Why I believe she has a case is this changing of schedules before someone was let go has happened before.

    Samantha Mohr was basically demoted to weekends and then only doing weather.com forecasts before her contract was not renewed.

    Nicole was demoted to fill-in OCM before her contract was not renewed.

    For those who say Nicole is just doing it for the money,
    the case is going to cost her financially and I doubt she would file a law suit and want all this attention if she did not believe she had a valid case.

    The fact TWC is keeping her out of the new “Hurricane Hunters” is very important as it shows they have some bias against her.

    Before NBCU took over The Weather Channel had former OCM Marny Stanier sued them for age discrimination in 2005 and a settlement was reached.

    http://rturner229.blogspot.com/2006/06/settlement-apparently-reached-in.html

    In 2008 former TWC OCM Hillary Andrews won an arbitration case that claimed a former OCM was sexually harassing her at TWC and when she complained she was demoted to overnights.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/05/07/hillary-andrews-bob-stoke_n_100541.html

  14. imnotblue Says:

    Where has Bain been accused of firing someone because of their military obligations, Joe?

  15. That’s a silly question. Their reputation is to cut loose anyone who may cost them an extra buck. Like someone who needs subs while she honors her military service. You’re not even trying.

  16. Grandpa Dave Says:

    Ignoring the political Bain Bashing, this kind of lawsuit happens often, particularly in TV. Most employers consider it a cost of doing business.

    If Mitchell was on call for her military duties tracking hurricanes that would definitely interfere with her job of reporting hurricanes on TWC. NBCU probably knew a lawsuit would be filed but they’re willing to take their lumps rather than keep an employee that couldn’t be available to do the specialized reporting that she was hired to do. I would guess this will be settled out of court or Mitchell will probably win. In either case Mitchell will not get her job back.

  17. imnotblue Says:

    Right… and NBC has a reputation for being a far-left group, not exactly know for loving the military (see: Hayes for a recent example).

    So the point remains. You went after the group you’ve been told to dislike, ignored the actual people in charge of the daily operations (if you think Bain has control over talent, you’re ever further out of your mind than previously thought). Just admit it, you’re more likely to attack Bain, over NBC, for political reasons.

  18. Seems many are under the erroneous concept that business is here to provide you with a job. The ONLY purpose is to create wealth. Period. In fact CEO’S can be sued for their failure to manage their fiduciary duty to do such.

    Your employment is a simple by-product of that quest. If your services could be provided by a robot….then it will be.

    I watched a video of an auto plant prototype that had a total of 5 employees. All automated.

    Get your head around that one for a bit. Jobs are not some type of academia’s post modern social construct.

    It’s just business.

  19. It’s just the kind of nasty bottom-line business that regulations and unions were built to protect this country from. I’m a liberal for a REASON.

  20. imnotblue Says:

    So Joe… you’re comfortable with less quality, efficiency, and higher costs for all… if it means that some more unionized workers get a few extra vacation days?

    And this will be good for the economy… how?

  21. There isn’t anything “nasty” about it. If I do work for you then you owe me a paycheck. If I work for you again for the next period then you own me another paycheck, but if I don’t then you won’t owe me anything.

    Interestingly, the growth in regulations and mandates from the current administration has substantially increased the costs of hiring employees. Simultaneously, their tax credits encourage businesses to purchase automated machinery. So much for being a liberal… those jobs are gone forever.

    That “extra buck” doesn’t necessarily go into the pockets of the employer, either. Competition has a way of funneling those savings toward the buyer of the product and, ultimately, to you in the form of lower prices.

  22. icemannyr Says:

    I’m guessing NBC and MSNBC are avoiding the story since The Weather Channel is a sister network.
    FNC did a segment during Happening Now.

  23. Two employees at my business, both Marines, were ordered to active duty. One we needed desperately for her skills and the other, because his project had ended, was slated for lay-off two weeks before getting his orders. Didn’t have to, but the lay-off was rescinded immediately. Both of my Marines have since returned home from Afghanistan and both are back at work with every raise, bonus, benefit… whatever, that they would have received had they never left.

    I don’t give a rat’s about the USERRA technicalities. Doing the right thing for our military volunteers is a real simple concept and I can’t believe TWC suits did that… reminds me of how so many radical liberals treated those returning home from Vietnam.

  24. As a veteran, who was let go under similar circumstances, meaning my reserve duty conflicted with what my boss had in mind for me, resulted in me bringing legal action as well. I had sworn statements from fellow workers of the disdain that my boss had for the military in general that lead to the settlement. I hope Capt. Mitchell has a smoking gun as well. Thank you for your service.

  25. They did what? They fired nicole? That’s why I don’t watch the weather channel nomore. Nicole was my girl. I don’t care if I was sleep I would wake up to watch here, not only is she beautiful, she is also smart so you go girl and keep up the good work.

  26. The smart move here folks would have been to give Ms. Mitchell the opportunity to star in the reality show. I mean she is an expert in that field. Too many companies let too many good people go, this person happens to be a Major in the USAF. The bottom line is looking good in the public eye and TWC/NBC isn’t cutting it.

  27. The weather ch. (twc) has really went downhill for a few yr.’s now; indescent clothing on some of the women (nipples/undies almost showing !!!), recently al roker making slighted statement against the Myans & how about the “plane Xtreme” story on this late afternoon, where the word “bitch” was all over the place. Do they know some of us find this offensive ? that may be school aged children are watching & may be even doing a book report on weather, etc. ? Do they even care ?

  28. Why serve THIS “Great” America? The more time I have in and the more I see how the way things are. The more I ask myself Why do I do what I do? For what cause? Why should I fight for people who doesn’t deserve the freedom I give. I think it would be not extreme to say I wish a dictator would tell you what he thinks if this was one of his troops being treated like this. Those who fight for us and who are with us, deserves the every “American” Cherry on top the ice cream. Look were not asking for much, respect out duty, respect our job status, “Business is Business,” and freedom is fee, but think about Nichole your business to be free is at the expense of her and my life.

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