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Pa. Suit: 2 Fired For Sending Obama 'tar' E-mail

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Two people say a western Pennsylvania company violated their constitutional free speech rights by firing them after they forwarded an e-mail likening President Barack Obama to the "tar balls" washed ashore after the Gulf oil spill.

The lawsuit says Centers for Rehab Services contended the e-mail "contained political and discriminatory content." But Deborah Bonanno and James Sprung say they merely were expressing their feelings the nation's first black president and others were "dithering" as the spill worsened.

The center is affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. UPMC spokeswoman Susan Manko says it has a "zero-tolerance" policy barring creation or circulation of e-mails "that may be racially, sexually or otherwise offensive."

The plaintiffs' lawyer hasn't returned a phone message left Tuesday seeking comment.