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September 22, 1997

WAYNE VAN DE POL, Plaintiff,

The opinion of the court was delivered by: SIMANDLE

 SIMANDLE, District Judge:

 Defendant Caesars Hotel Casino has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 on plaintiff's complaint. In this employment discrimination case, plaintiff Wayne Van de Pol seeks a determination by this court that he was terminated from employment in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination ("NJLAD"), N.J.S.A. §§ 10:5-1, et seq., when he was fired because his neck injury rendered him unable to perform certain of his duties as a Slot Attendant at the casino.

 Defendant has moved for summary judgment on the grounds that plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination under the ADA and NJLAD, as he is either not disabled, or is not qualified to perform the task for which he was employed. *fn1" The court finds that plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case under the ADA and NJLAD, since he is, as a result of his injuries, not qualified to perform his essential duties as a Slot Attendant. Summary judgment is therefore granted in favor of defendant Caesars.


 The facts, when read in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, are as follows. Plaintiff Wayne Van de Pol was employed at Caesars Casino as a Slot Attendant from August 1989 through August 1994, *fn2" at which time plaintiff was terminated by Caesars because his neck injury (a herniated disc in the cervical spine) rendered him unable to perform some of his duties.

 Slot Attendants are responsible for, among other things, refilling the slot machine hoppers with bags of coins, and clearing the slot machine hoppers when they become jammed with coins. Performing these tasks usually involves some bending and twisting. In addition, filling the hoppers involves lifting bags of coins, the weight of which varies depending on the denominations of the coins. The bags of coins for dollar and above slot machines weigh twenty-four pounds, while the bags for lesser denominations weigh less. When refilling the hopper, a slot attendant must use a razor or scissors to cut open the bag of coins. When coins jam a slot machine hopper, the nearest available Slot Attendant must clear the jam, which sometimes involves lifting the hopper bowl while it contains coins. When a hopper bowl is full, it can weigh up to thirty pounds. The Caesars casino is divided into sections with several Slot Attendants assigned to each section. Each section contains slot machines of a variety of denominations.

 In addition to the duties described above, on a rotating basis once a month, Slot Attendants are required to devote a full day exclusively to refilling the hopper storage areas at the base of the slot machines with spare bags of coins. Prior to his neck injury, plaintiff had already been exempted from this duty due to a preexisting back condition that plaintiff has had since 1977.

 On August 20, 1993, plaintiff injured his neck while refilling a fifty cent slot machine hopper with a bag of coins. On August 22, 1993, plaintiff requested a medical leave of absence, which was granted and extended by Caesar's for one year. For the six months following the incident, plaintiff was bedridden and unable to move without assistance, due to pain in his neck and fingers and the numbness of the arm and fingers on his right side. Although some of the pain has subsided, plaintiff still has partial paralysis of his right hand, which makes it difficult (though not necessarily impossible) for him to grasp and manipulate small objects such as tools, and to carry large bulky items using both hands.

 Plaintiff returned to work on August 16, 1994, just before his paid leave of absence was scheduled to expire. On returning to work, Plaintiff presented his employers with a note from his Doctor, a Dr. Macom, stating that Plaintiff was fit to return to work provided he was not required to lift any weights above 23.9 pounds. Plaintiff has testified that he requested that Dr. Macom rewrite his note to specify a 23.9 pound limit, rather than the 20 pound limit the Doctor had initially chosen, because the Union had informed plaintiff that the dollar coin bags weigh 24 pounds, and that plaintiff might be able to return to work if he showed himself able to lift the coin bags below the dollar amount. At Caesar's request, Plaintiff consulted an orthopaedic surgeon named Dr. Baker, who confirmed that plaintiff had a herniated disc in the cervical spine, and that plaintiff could not perform the duties of a Slot Attendant as listed in the Caesars Job Classification, because he should not do any bending, twisting, or lifting of heavy objects.

 Plaintiff requested that he be permitted to return to work and be assigned only to areas of the casino floor where large denomination slot machines did not predominate, and that he be excused from filling dollar and above machines and that he continue to be excused from doing monthly hopper storage fills. Plaintiff's supervisor informed him that such an accommodation would not be possible, and that it was "too risky" for him to return to work in his existing physical condition.

 On October 3, 1994, Caesars informed Plaintiff that he was terminated, effective August 23, 1994, because he was unable to perform his duties and had exhausted all the medical leave of absence time available under Caesars' policy.

 After his termination from Caesars, Plaintiff looked for work at other casinos and in other fields, but has been unable to find a full time permanent position. The extent and rigor of plaintiff's search for work remains in dispute, but this dispute is not material to the issue addressed in this motion. Plaintiff currently works part-time as a service repairman for a radio station. He has, since leaving Caesars, also worked briefly as a teacher for the Cape May County Vocational School, and as a security guard.


 A court may grant summary judgment when the materials of record "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Hersh v. Allen Prods. Co., 789 F.2d 230, 232 (3d Cir. 1986); Lang v. New York Life Ins. Co., 721 F.2d 118, 119 (3d Cir. 1983). A dispute is "genuine" if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party." See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d ...

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