Weather Channel Anchor Says She Was Fired Because Of Military Service

Nicole MitchellThe internet is full of tributes to Maj. Nicole Mitchell, "weather babe," who for seven years was a familiar face on the Weather Channel. But Mitchell is far more than just a "Hot Girl of the Weather Channel." She's been a military reservist for two decades, now serving as a member of the elite "Hurricane Hunters" for the Air Force Reserve. She has degrees in meteorology and law, and claims that her employment reviews were always outstanding. So it came as a shock to Mitchell, and her fans, when the Weather Channel kicked her off the air in 2010.

Mitchell is one of thousands of National Guard and Reserve members who believe that they lost a job, or were denied a job, because they're on-call to fight for their country. And like many, she's suing -- alleging discrimination against members of the military. After NBC bought The Weather Channel in 2008, Mitchell says that her new managers would frequently complain about her military obligations, purposely schedule work shifts during her trainings, and dock her vacation days. She was bumped from the channel's flagship show to a later night broadcast, and finally, four days after she returned from her two-week annual training in 2010, she was told that her contract wouldn't be renewed, "for business reasons."

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"Everyone's loyalty was being tested," says Mitchell about the more intensive demands under NBC. " 'We say jump and we're looking to see who will jump and who won't.' And I couldn't jump." NBC Universal didn't respond to requests for comment.

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The unemployment rate in the guard is stunningly high -- over 20 percent at the end of 2012, according to an internal survey cited by Army Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, president of the National Guard Association. Some guard chapters report brigades returning home to unemployment rates upward of 50 percent. Citizen-soldiers often are young, having enlisted just after high school, which partly explains these figures. But many leaders in the reserves say that discrimination is rampant. "Anecdotally, we continue to hear that employers will find subtle ways to avoid hiring a serving member of the guard or reserve," Hargett testified.

It's illegal for an employer to discriminate against a person because of their military service under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, but a USERRA violation often is hard to prove. Nevertheless, a Department of Defense agency -- the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve -- handled 2,793 USERRA cases last year, or the equivalent of 54 a week.

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The number of actual cases is likely higher. Mitchell believes many people sign away their legal rights in order to get a badly-needed severance package, or simply give up. Mitchell, for one, decided to hire her own lawyer and pursue her case privately. But because she signed an arbitration agreement as part of her condition of employment, her case will be resolved behind closed doors, a process that critics charge is pro-management. "I'm sad I won't get my day in court," says Mitchell, whose hearing will be later this year.

Helping Veterans, Ignoring Reserves

In the past two years, joblessness among veterans became front page news as the rate for young post-9/11 veterans topped 30 percent. The private sector responded nobly with pledges to hire veterans, and intensified recruiting efforts and transition workshops. But some believe this focus on veterans returning from war excludes the specific issues facing citizen-soldiers, whose military duties are ongoing.

Mitchell says that she went to a meeting last year of the Veterans in Film and Television group, where someone from NBC Universal, one of the parent companies of The Weather Channel, emphasized the company's commitment to hire a thousand veterans. "We really believe in you guys," she remembers him saying.

Little did he know that someone in the audience -- Mitchell -- was currently suing his company for violating USERRA. "You can still have a company that says we'll hire veterans, but they discriminate against reserve," she says. "There's a difference between someone who's done, and you don't have to actively support military work."

Since losing her job at The Weather Channel, Mitchell's been picking up odd hosting and acting jobs wherever she can, and took and passed the California Bar Exam. She's also volunteered for a lot more military work, doing almost two months straight during the last hurricane season. Mitchell's career may have stalled in the civilian world, but in the reserves, she was just promoted from captain to major.

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Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

Follow Claire on Twitter. Email Claire at claire.gordon@teamaol.com. Add Claire to your Google+ circles.

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Tory Tomminson

She costs $3,500 for 45 minutes, but, yes, it was the best poon I ever had.

May 23 2014 at 10:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
eideard

Well, she does a great job at AJAM.

May 08 2014 at 7:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
James

FYI, NBC (no brain cells) bought the Weather Channel in 2008, and the stupidity has increased exponentially ever since. Some really great professionals have been dismissed-more like frog marched to the door, for the most asinine reasons. May NBC and its useful idiots reap what they've sown.

February 17 2014 at 5:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to James's comment
bob

On July 6, 2008, NBC Universal, Bain Capital and Blackstone Group agreed to purchase The Weather Channel from Landmark.

July 09 2014 at 8:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tomrinard

NBC has the brown midas touch. Everything they touch turns to crap. This is just another perfect example of the corporate takeover of America. It's all about them and how much money they can stuff into their pockets. I definitely miss Maj. Mitchell but she is much better not working for a bunch of two faced asses. I wish her the very best of everything and I am so very proud of her and all of her accomplishments.

September 19 2013 at 4:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
vieragam

I had No Idea that nbc owns the weather channel. I did stop watching it a couple years ago because the amount of commercials had tripled and could not get a decent weather report during hurricane season in Florida...it was commercials ALL the time. Now I am happy I stopped. I have not watched nbc since the Ann Curry firing. Happy to know this fact. Thanks HP.

May 13 2013 at 1:59 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
rvanadiumx

Maj. Nicole Mitchell, thank you and all fellow Reservists and members of the AirNational Guard for your
service to the nation in both combat and non-combat roles. Note to the employers and potential employers
of the selfless folks-you have the opportunity to hire some of the most motivated and well trained-
potential employees.

May 13 2013 at 12:03 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
Lisa

I hope that not only she wins her suit if she decides to do so, but that many others will sue. How can this still be happening in 2013?

May 11 2013 at 1:01 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
ranes54

I was a long time member of the Army Reserve. I got a new boss at my civilian job and he told me in no uncertain terms that I would be fired if I continued my service committment of 2 days a month and 15 days a year. I told him to put it in writing. He was dumb enough to do that. I took the letter to HR and they cut him loose by the end of the week. Never had another problem.

May 05 2013 at 2:59 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
rslbherc

I glad i am not alone in thinking the worst thing that happened to the weather channel is nbc //a bunch of idiots with the worst programming // the last thing i want to do is wake up with that chubby little today show retread al//they do anything to avoid the weather

May 04 2013 at 10:02 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
StarBaby1077

NBC really screwed up The Weather Channel when they bought it. They got rid of all the good meterologists: Christina Abernathy, Bette Davis, Sarah Libby, Jennifer Lopez, Sharon Resultan, and Heather Tesch. Now they've got stupid crap on there like: Wake up With Al, the prospectors, men building skyscraper in NYC. They even got rid of Dr. Anna Marie! It's near impossible to find Local On The 8s! And what's up with Jen Carfagno? That chick talks so damn fast I have a hard time understanding what the hell she's even saying!
Too bad someone doesn't start a competing channel that focuses on the weather instead of entertainment. They could start by rehiring all the meterologists that TWC fired! That would show the morons at NBC how the weather should be done!

May 04 2013 at 8:26 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to StarBaby1077's comment

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