Suit alleges Weather Channel Star was fired for military service
by Geoff Folsom
June 05, 2012 01:41 AM | 18740 views | 6 6 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — A former Weather Channel star is suing the Cobb-based channel and its new owners, claiming she was fired because of her military service.

Meteorologist Nicole Mitchell said Monday that her contract was not renewed in 2010 because the Weather Channel’s management didn’t want to deal with the time she took off to serve in the Air Force Reserves, where she is a captain and “Hurricane Hunter.” While the channel’s former management, Norfolk, Va.-based Landmark Communications, embraced her role in the military, featuring her weather-related duties on the air, she said that started to change when the Weather Channel was sold in 2008 to NBC Universal and two private equity firms, Bain Capital and the Blackstone Group.

Video below is courtesy of our news partner Fox 5 Atlanta



“I don’t think it was so much they were anti-military,” Mitchell said after a news conference Monday at her attorney’s office, a couple of miles from the Weather Channel’s headquarters. “But we were taken over by outside companies that weren’t internally managing, if that makes sense. And so they never got to know some of us. Our managers weren’t meteorologists anymore, so I think it was just easier for them to feel inconvenienced than to look at the benefits.”

The lawsuit states that in March 2009, NBC News Vice President Elena Nachmanoff called Mitchell in for a Sunday meeting with a “hair consultant,” even though Mitchell had a military service weekend scheduled for months. It claims that Nachmanoff was “perceptibly angry” that Mitchell didn’t come in. After Mitchell missed a second weekend assignment for “makeup consultation” in June 2009, she was removed from “Your Weather Today,” which she had been on for four years.

Mitchell’s contract with the Weather Channel was not renewed in 2010, which she says was a direct result of her military service, which is a violation of the 1994 Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination or retaliation against service members because of their military obligations.

“In our business, those contracts are just renewed time after time, as long as their happy with you as an employee,” she said. “Georgia is a right-to-work state, there’s no requirement to renew anyone’s contract. But, just like new management couldn’t come in and say, ‘We don’t really like black people, we’re not going to renew their contracts’ — you can’t do that, you can’t do it for discriminatory reason. So, for the same reason, you can’t say, ‘We’re not going to renew her because she’s in the military.’ ”

Along with her attorney — Lance LoRusso, known for his work as legal counsel for the Georgia Fraternal Order of Police — Mitchell’s defenders Monday included representatives from the Reserve Officer’s Association.

Lynn Hogue, a retired Army lawyer who is now a law professor at Georgia State University, said no specific reasons were ever given for Mitchell’s dismissal.

“She had stellar evaluations,” he said. “What other inference could you possible draw than that the renewal was based on the inconvenience caused by her military service?”

Mitchell, who started with the Reserves 20 years ago just out of high school, said she filed the lawsuit not just for herself, but for those in the military who don’t have the same resources she does.

“It’s popular right now to say ‘We support the troops’ and ‘We’ve got your back,’ but if you’re going to say it, you should mean it. We need to make sure employers are doing the right thing, if not because it’s right, which is why you should do it, at the very least because it’s the law.”

While he didn’t say how much money they were seeking, LoRusso said that Mitchell is entitled to money she would have gotten had her contract been renewed, as well as attorney’s fees and expenses.

A Weather Channel statement said the company can’t comment on pending litigation, but that the channel and its owners are committed to creating an atmosphere in compliance with the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.

“As with many situations, there is more than one version of what occurred,” the statement said. “We disagree with many of the assertions in the plaintiff’s press statements and intend to vigorously defend the matter in the arbitration process.”

The Weather Channel was started in Cobb County in 1982 and currently has 800 employees at its headquarters on Interstate North Parkway in the Cumberland area.

Bain has been under attack by President Barack Obama’s campaign recently because of its co-founder, presumptive Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, while Obama himself attended a fundraiser last month in New York that was hosted by Blackstone’s chief operating officer.
Comments
(6)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Ms Yuhas
|
June 10, 2012
The weather channel has become so political, I can hardly get any weather news. I use to watch it every time I was heading out the door. Now I'm down to one local on the 8 in a 24 hr span. The hurricane hunters reminded me of Nicole. The weather channel has to get back to weather & leave patriot employees to do both jobs.
questioning
|
June 06, 2012
I am wondering about comments to this paper. I think it is obvious that the Weather Channel has done two things. One, it has turned very pc, just loves global warming. The second thing is, it has become more of a reality show than a weather channel. I do not blame that woman for suing. She should and I hope she wins a ton!
Just Wait
|
June 05, 2012
That LaRusso guy looks like a deer in the headlights in his picture.
Downhill!
|
June 05, 2012
Of course they fired her due to her military duties. It's NBC, right?

The Weather Channel has gone downhill and straight to the dogs in my opinion. Infact I don't see how they can still call themselves the Weather Channel. Usually some program is on and I have to get on the computer (Accuweather, I might add), and get the information I need. Ever since John Coleman was no longer part of the channel, it hasn't really been the same. I can remember once calling them to ask about some bad weather coming to a site I was planning on visiting, got to speak to a meteorologist who was so helpful. The treatment of the this lady is a digrace, but silly me, I should not be surprised. These people are obviously part of the"pc" global warming crowd.
CashOut
|
June 05, 2012
just pay her off with a few hundred thousand to make this go away "quickly and quietly" as they like to say in DC. The attorneys will cash in with 40%!
in that case
|
June 05, 2012
In that case, the amount should be larger! (Or maybe people should just stop watching the channel.)
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides