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Airport worker fired for slipping 'you ugly' note to traveler

Neal Strassner says a security guard handed him a torn piece of paper with the two words scrawled on it.
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A security screener at a New York airport is out of a job after slipping a note to a traveler that read: "you ugly."

Neal Strassner was going through a security checkpoint at Greater Rochester International Airport in late June when the security guard handed him a torn piece of paper with those words scrawled on it.

Strassner said he only recently obtained a copy of security footage from that day through the Freedom of Information Act.

"I called the airport and I tried to get the information and they said I had to talk to the county," Strassner said Friday. "I called the county, and they said that was the only way I could get it."

The "You Ugly" note Neal Strassner says he was handed at the airport in Rochester, N.Y.
The "you ugly" note Neal Strassner says he was handed at the airport in Rochester, New York.via Neal Strassner

After he passed through the checkpoint and began walking away, Strassner said he heard the worker yell back at him, “You going to open the note?”

"I was more confused than anything," Strassner said. "I kind of just looked at it and thought, 'That was weird.'"

Strassner, who lives in Rochester and travels weekly in his role as a technical coordinator, said he was on his way to Wichita for a work trip the morning of the incident. He said he called the airport that afternoon to file a complaint and was advised to stop in with security when he returned later that week.

When he met with a supervisor at the airport, Strassner said he got the impression the supervisor didn't believe him.

The employee who handed him the note worked for VMD Corporation, a security company based in Virginia and contracted through the Transportation Security Administration. Strassner said the company had promised to contact him about the episode by Aug. 13. When he hadn't heard from them by Thursday, he uploaded the nearly two-minute long video to Reddit.

Within two hours, he said the company contacted him, which he attributes to "the power of the internet."

VMD did not immediately return a request for comment. TSA said the employee was fired.

“TSA holds contractors to the highest ethical standards and has zero tolerance for this type of behavior," the agency said in a statement. "This instance, which involved a contract employee, was investigated immediately upon receiving the complaint by the traveler. The employee has since been terminated by the contractor.”

Strassner said he will not allow this experience to sour his opinion of Greater Rochester International Airport, which has free classic arcade games he is a fan of.

"I fly out of there all of the time. They're actually a pretty good airport," he said. "Out of all the airports I go to in the country, it's one of my favorite."