Appellate Judges Breathe New Life into ADA Case

August 12, 2005 ( - A federal appeals court has granted a former Nissan North America employee a chance to prove her case that she was discriminated against after complaining about the company's handling of her emotional problems.

The US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said that there were enough open questions about plaintiff Kathy Cantrell’s allegations for the case to move on to trial, according to the Nashville Tennessean .

Cantrell charged that, even though Nissan had tried to accommodate her depression and panic attacks, she was eventually fired as a form of retaliation after she filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Cantrell was diagnosed with depression and suffering from panic attacks in 1993, a year after she started working at Nissan’s plant inSmyrna, Tennessee.

According to court records, Cantrell made physical threats against some employees between 1995 and 1998, and told a supervisor, “I could understand how someone could come into a place like this and kill people.” Examining doctors agreed that it was best to transfer Cantrell and eventually had her moved several times.

She had several other disciplinary problems that led to her being written up in July 2002 and she was given a warning that she would be fired for another incident.

After the July warning, she was moved again, but instead of reporting to work, she took a medical leave of absence and filed a discrimination complaint with the EEOC, saying that Nissan wasn’t making a reasonable accommodation for her.

The EEOC rejected her claim in October, and she returned to work in November.

Court records indicate that Cantrell suffered another panic attack on the job and asked to be transferred again. This time, Nissan terminated her employment.

US District Judge Todd Campbell originally threw out Cantrell’s case, saying Nissan acted within the scope of the law.

In court records, Nissan contended that Cantrell was fired because she failed to accept a work assignment and she had a history of problems getting along with co-workers and supervisors. The 6 th Circuit ruling is here .