A former Weather Channel anchor is suing the network, claiming her status as an Air Force reserve officer got her fired.
Nicole Mitchell said this week her contract was not renewed in 2010 because Weather Channel management did not want to contend with the time she took off for her military duties, the Marietta Daily Journal reported. She has accused the Weather Channel and its parent companies of violating her rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994.
Mitchell, who holds the rank of captain, was an on-air meteorologist for the network for seven years. She said the trouble started after the Weather Channel was sold in 2008 to NBC Universal and private equity firms Bain Capital and the Blackstone Group. She told Fox News that management told her she would have to get clearance before taking any Air Force assignments.
“I was told in an email, ‘before you agree to military duty, you need to clear it through us first,’” Mitchell told Fox. “If you don’t show up for orders, you could be court-martialed.”
In one instance, Mitchell said, she was reprimanded for choosing her weekend Air Force commitment over a scheduled hair appointment. After missing a separate makeup consultation, she said she was moved from the 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekday anchor shift to a Monday to Friday 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift.
According to the Daily Journal, Mitchell was never given a reason for not having her contract renewed.
“She had stellar evaluations,” Lynn Hogue, a retired Army lawyer, told the newspaper. “What other inference could you possible draw than that the renewal was based on the inconvenience caused by her military service?”
Mitchell, who started in the Reserves 20 years ago when she graduated from high school, said her suit is not just about herself, but other military members facing discrimination 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," she said according to WAGA-TV.
Mitchell's attorney, Lance LoRusso, has not said how much money his client is seeking but said she is entitled to wages she would have received had her contract been renewed.
In a statement, the Weather Channel said it couldn't comment on the pending lawsuit but said it is committed to creating a work 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.”