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…