Ex-Weather Channel Anchor: Network Fired Me Over Military Duties

Wednesday, 07 May 2014 02:17 PM

By Melanie Batley

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A former anchor at The Weather Channel has filed a lawsuit against the NBC-owned network after she said she was fired because of a dispute about her obligations as a member of the military and harassed about her military service schedule.

Nicole Mitchell, a highly decorated Air Force Reserve officer and a member of the "Hurricane Hunters" team, accuses NBC bosses of making explicit complaints about her military service schedule, creating a "hostile working environment," and discriminating against her rights as a member of the armed services, Fox News Radio reported.

"I was told in an email, 'Before you agree to military duty, you need to clear it through us first,'" Mitchell told Fox News Radio. "If you don't show up for orders, you could be court-martialed."

Mitchell's career at The Weather Channel went downhill when the network allegedly told her she had no choice but to appear for a Sunday hair consultation. She told them it would not be possible for her to attend because she was on weekend military duty and had already given the network advance notice of the commitment.

"She was told that was not a good answer," Mitchell's attorney, Lance LoRusso said. "They gave her a hard time, but she stuck to her guns."

Shortly thereafter, Mitchell was removed from her prime shift of weekdays from 7-10 a.m. and moved to a less prominent slot of 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.

"Here we truly believe that the scheduling and the fact that her Reserve duty was up against a schedule of NBC and The Weather Channel — was a motivating factor in their decision," LoRusso said. "That is illegal."

Mitchell worked for The Weather Channel from 2004 until 2011, when her contract was not renewed.

The Weather Channel released a statement to Fox New Radio declining to comment on the specifics of the case, but spokesman David Blumenthal said the network "is committed to creating a work atmosphere free of discrimination and in compliance with The Uniformed Services Employment Reemployment Rights Act of 1994," the law which Mitchell alleges the network has breached.

He added that some of Mitchell's allegations were inaccurate, but declined to provide specific examples.

"We disagree with many of the assertions in the plaintiff's press statements and intend to vigorously defend the matter in the arbitration process," he said.

LoRusso, however, described The Weather Channel and NBC's behavior as "deplorable."

"It is not a matter of providing lip service and saying you support the military," LoRusso told Fox News Radio. "You cannot interfere with their service. You cannot provide harassment or a hostile environment to them, and if you do — you are the subject of sanctions."

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