US workers fired over email comparing Obama to 'tar ball' sues company

London, Feb 10 (ANI): Two workers in the US, who were fired from their jobs after they forwarded an email that compared US president Barack Obama to a "tar ball", have decided to sue their company.

Deborah Bonanno and James Sprung received the email and forwarded it to co-workers after the BP Gulf of Mexico Oil Spills last summer, it showed a picture of Obama walking along the beach under the headline "Another tar ball washed up on the shore".

Obama had been visiting the beach to inspect damage cause by the oil disaster, and during part of the trip he inspected balls of tar in the sand.

But Bonanno and Sprung have now filed lawsuits against Centers for Rehab, part of health firm UPMC, claiming they should not have been sacked.

According to WTAE news in Pittsburgh, the company said the e-mail was inappropriate, but the employees said they were just expressing their political views and were wrongfully fired.

In a memo, an official for Centres for Rehab Services called it "an inappropriate e-mail that contained political and discriminatory content".

"The motivation behind CRS' termination was to stifle the employees' freedom of expression on a matter of public concern," the Daily Mail quoted an attorney for Bonanno and Sprung as saying in court papers.

Vic Walczak, the ACLU's legal director in Pennsylvania, said employees have "very few" rights to sound off at work.

Walczak said he had not seen the lawsuits, but he said the Constitutional right to free speech does not apply when someone uses a workplace computer, and that companies also have the right to control some personal behaviour outside the workplace.

A spokeswoman for UPMC, which is affiliated with Centers for Rehab Services, did not comment on the lawsuit but said that UPMC has a long-standing zero-tolerance policy for e-mails that are racially, sexually or otherwise offensive. (ANI)

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