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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 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?

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.”

 

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Simon D June 20, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Very unfortunate circumstance. Wish her the best of luck. Illegal employer discrimination is certainly commonplace and quite difficult to prove without paperwork or collaboration of management stating the reason for dismissal. Most employment law favors the employer, particularly the "at will" employment laws that state anyone can be fired for any reason, so long as it does not fall into the parameters of the illegal discrimination list. ( based on sex, race, gender, sexual orientation, age, military service, national origin, disability, religion, and genetic information) These laws make it quite easy for employers to simply disguise illegal discrimination by allowing dismissal for the most trivial of reasons. A simple "I didn't like the employee" is usually smokescreen enough to protect employers from judgements in these cases, and that is just plain wrong.
Kim Lemrick June 20, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Deplorable for any company to force or expect someone to make this choice! I hope she wins her lawsuit.
Simon D June 22, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Hmm, sounds like a jilted ex-boyfriend to me. Certainly not anyone who works for NBC or who would have any knowlege about this situation, because they would never allow anyone to comment on pending litigation, even anonymously. Perhaps an ex-employer, one she obviously left rejected.
Dude June 22, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Simon, Yes, an ex boss whom she's pulled this kind of crap on before... in the Minnesota AF Reserves.
Kris Janisch June 22, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Dude, I had to delete your comment, as per our terms of use: http://woodbury.patch.com/terms
WN July 02, 2012 at 02:28 PM
There is no way "Dude" really worked with her, and I think he is even lying about being in the military. First, I really did serve with Nicole in MN (she worked in a different section). She was very nice, and most people were proud to see her on the Weather Channel a few years later. But, anyone who really knows her knows she was in the Air National Guard when she was in MN, NOT the Reserves. Guard is State, Reserves are federal, and they are totally separate entities. No one would mistake which one you worked for. Sounds like someone saw she was in the Reserves now, knew she worked in MN and made this up, not knowing she was in the Guard. Second, there is no "Minnesota AF Reserves." As I said, Guard is state-run, so there is a Minnesota Guard, but the Reseves is federal and does not belong to the state, even if a Reserve unit is located in the state. It's like if there was a Marine base in MN. You wouldn't say I worked in the "Minnesota Marines", you would say something like "I was a Marine stationed in MN." I know it's semantics, but it's the type of phrasing a real military member would know. He would just say "AF Reserves", or "AF Reserves in MN", but it is unlikely a real Reservist would say "Minnesota AF Reserves" (and again, she was in the Guard anyway). So, maybe a jilted guy, but could just as easily be the people she's suing trying to smear her. Either way, companies doing this to military happens a lot, so I hope she gives them hell!

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