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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Chicago CTA bus driver claims she was fired for having one prosthetic eye

wanted to share, and would welcome any thoughts and feedback on this one...

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -
By Dane Placko, FOX 32 News Investigative Reporter | Oct 14, 2014

There are a lot of things a person with one eye can do, but driving a bus isn't one of them -- at least not under the law.

Yet, FOX 32 News has learned that a woman with a glass eye has been driving a CTA bus for years -- until last week.

Investigative reporter Dane Placko reports the reason for her dismissal is in dispute, but the CTA is now trying to figure out how she got the job in the first place.

"Yes I do [have a prosthetic eye]," said Karen Harris. “I had it when I passed the job. I passed every single vision test that there is."

Harris, 44, has been driving a bus for the CTA since 2008 and has had an Illinois commercial driver's license for 15 years. That's despite the fact that her left eye was replaced with a prosthetic due to an infection in her childhood.

"They hired me this way. This has been a way of life for me," Harris said.

However, under state law, anyone with a commercial driver's license is required to have two working eyes, so they have good distance judgment and depth of field.

Harris said the CTA never asked, and she never told.

"I never went in deceiving anyone. I go and I take the vision test like the next person," she said.

But Harris said in 2011, an estranged family member called the CTA and told them about her glass eye, which led to harassment from her colleagues and name-calling.

"They spread the rumor around the garage, but they never asked me personally about it. The manager said things to me, like 'what are you looking for, your eye?'" Harris said.

But the CTA said there's nothing in her personnel file to indicate they knew about her condition.

On Friday, the CTA fired Harris for what a spokesman calls a variety of rules violations, including insubordination, a confrontation with a supervisor and falsifying a report.

However, Harris is convinced she was fired because of her glass eye.

"I think they're very embarrassed. I think they all are embarrassed because for six years I've taken a vision test every year and passed them all," she said.

The tests are actually performed every two years by a doctor under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and every four years by the Illinois Secretary of State's office when CDL holders renew their license.

The CTA doesn't require a vision test upon employment because someone with a valid CDL should have had that performed already.

Amazingly, when Harris collapsed during a confrontation with her boss in 2013, a doctor who examined her wrote the pupil in her glass eye reacted to light. Although, he did note the pupils are unequal.

"There's plenty of people out there doing different things that have different characteristics than others. But it doesn't stop them. And this is one of the things that doesn't stop me. This doesn't stop me. They're trying to stop me," Harris said.

And that's the mystery, how did she pass? She has had only two minor accidents with no injuries in her career.

Harris said she should be able to drive with one eye, but Illinois' Secretary of State is taking it seriously and launching an investigation into how she got her license.


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