Forced to Choose: Military or Career?
Woodbury High School graduate Nicole Mitchell has filed a lawsuit against the Weather Channel claiming her contract wasn’t renewed because of her military service.
The conditions facing veterans returning to the job market has been well documented in the media.
But what about current military members who are seemingly forced to choose between their service and their career?
Woodbury High School graduate Nicole Mitchell in the summer of 2011 filed a lawsuit against the Weather Channel alleging the network did not renew her contract because of her duties in the Air Force Reserves.
Mitchell, formerly an on-air meteorologist with the Weather Channel, has come forward with her case and is trying to raise awareness of her situation and the difficulties for military members during the arbitration process.
“This does happen a lot,” she said. “You don’t hear a lot of people talking about it.”
Mitchell, 37, a captain in the Air Force, was hired in 2004 and had her contract renewed shortly thereafter. “A sign they want to keep you,” she said.
But her weekend duties with the military began to conflict with her Weather Channel job after the network’s ownership changed, and she was asked to clear her service time with her superiors, “which is not how the military works.”
Her employment with the network ended in January 2011.
“They made it clear that they did not approve that I was putting something else first,” she said.
The Weather Channel released a statement in response to Mitchell's lawsuit, according to a report.
The Weather Channel is committed to creating a work atmosphere free of discrimination and in compliance with The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 ("USERRA"), and its owners support that commitment. This is a commitment that we have always taken very seriously. We cannot comment on pending litigation, but as with many situations, there is more than one version of what occurred. We disagree with many of the assertions in the plaintiff's press statements and intend to vigorously defend the matter in the arbitration process.
Since she has gone public with her case, Mitchell said she has received lots of feedback about similar situations in which employers ask military members: “Are you loyal to us or to the military?”
“People shouldn’t be put in a position where they feel like they’re going to lose their jobs,” she said.
For the most part, Mitchell said she enjoyed her work at the Weather Channel.
“I kind of felt like I had my dream job,” she said, noting that her duties as a meteorologist for the Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters also added to her expertise and credibility with the Weather Channel.
Mitchell said she’s not alone in her problem, and added that she’s heard of people taking their military record off their résumé. She also supports legislation that would "improve the protection and enforcement of employment and re-employment rights of members of the uniformed services, and for other purposes."
Mitchell’s family has an extensive military background, and while she initially enlisted to help pay for college, she stayed with it.
“Because I love it,” she said. “We help people and save lives and I’m very proud of it.”