Port Authority Worker Fired After Claiming Racial Incident

Jon Schmitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 17, 2009

A Port Authority service worker who claimed she was the target of a racial threat in 2007 has been fired after the authority concluded that she was involved in the incident.

Deborah Blocker, 48, who worked at the East Liberty garage, was dismissed June 9 for “prior knowledge” and “participation” in an Oct. 1, 2007, incident in which a black baby doll, bearing a racial epithet directed at an unspecified black woman, was found hanging in an employee-only area, according to her termination letter.

Ms. Blocker had been on paid leave for more than a year before her firing. She said yesterday that the allegation is baseless and that she will fight to reclaim her job.

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Another service person at the garage, Tamara Clark, was fired in October in connection with the incident and is trying to win reinstatement through arbitration.

After the doll was found, police took handwriting samples and questioned employees and a Port Authority official said that criminal charges would be filed if the investigation identified the persons responsible.

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Mr. McMahon [Patrick McMahon, president and business agent of Local 85, Amalgamated Transit Union] said both Ms. Blocker and Ms. Clark were escorted off the garage premises in March 2008 and held out of work, but continued to collect their salaries.

Ms. Clark was paid for about seven months to stay home and Ms. Blocker nearly 15 months before they were fired. Ms. Clark’s wage at termination was $23.24 an hour; Ms. Blocker’s was $23.94, according to the Port Authority.

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