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Ahlmeyer v. Reed

February 18, 2009

LINDA AHLMEYER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MIKE REED, NEVADA SYSTEM OF HIGHER EDUCATION; DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada. Edward C. Reed, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV-05-00557-ECR.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bea, Circuit Judge

FOR PUBLICATION

Argued and Submitted January 18, 2008 -- San Francisco, California

Before: John T. Noonan, William A. Fletcher, and Carlos T. Bea, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Congress passed the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., to promote the employment of older persons and prohibit arbitrary discrimination by employers based on age. See 29 U.S.C. § 621(b). Congress crafted a detailed administrative scheme with complex enforcement mechanisms to accomplish these goals. When a district court dismissed Linda Ahlmeyer's ADEA claim because it was barred by the Eleventh Amendment, Ahlmeyer moved to amend her complaint so she could vindicate the same alleged wrong-workplace discrimination based on her age-through 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The district court denied Ahlmeyer's motion as futile and, pursuant to the parties' stipulated dismissal of Ahlmeyer's remaining claims, entered an order dismissing the claims with prejudice. Because we hold the ADEA is the exclusive enforcement mechanism for claims of age discrimination in employment, we affirm.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

On October 17, 2005, Ahlmeyer filed a complaint in district court against the Nevada System of Higher Education ("NSHE") and her former supervisor Mike Reed. The complaint alleged that Ahlmeyer, who was over forty years old, was not allowed to take classes during work hours and was denied requests for an assistant, unlike her younger co-worker. Ahlmeyer also contended she was written up and given sub-standard evaluations based on actions for which younger employees were not reprimanded. The complaint contained three claims, only one of which is at issue in this appeal:*fn1 the NSHE violated the ADEA.

The NSHE and Reed moved for partial summary judgment on Ahlmeyer's ADEA claim, on the basis that the claim was barred by the Eleventh Amendment to the federal Constitution.*fn2

In response, Ahlmeyer moved to amend her complaint and replace the ADEA claim with a § 1983 claim against Reed personally, based on claimed age discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Under Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents, 528 U.S. 62 (2000), the district court concluded Ahlmeyer's ADEA claim against the NSHE was barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Therefore, the district court granted the NSHE's and Reed's motion for partial summary judgment and dismissed Ahlmeyer's ADEA claim. The district court also denied Ahlmeyer's motion to amend her complaint, holding the ADEA creates an exclusive remedy for age discrimination by employers; no claim for relief for age discrimination exists under § 1983. On March 23, 2006, the parties stipulated to dismissal of the remaining claims, and the district court entered an order dismissing the claims with prejudice.

Ahlmeyer appealed the district court's denial of her motion to amend. She contends the ADEA does not preclude her § 1983 claim against Reed individually.

II. Jurisdiction

As a preliminary matter, the NSHE and Reed contend this court lacks jurisdiction to hear this case, because Ahlmeyer did not appeal from a final decision of the district court as required by 28 U.S.C. § 1291. This claim is without merit. It cannot be disputed that the district court's March 23, 2006, order dismissing all remaining claims in the action constituted a final decision of the district court. The NSHE and Reed contend this court lacks jurisdiction, however, because Ahlmeyer's notice of appeal did not expressly reference the March 23, 2006, order.

A notice of appeal generally must specify the "judgment, order, or part thereof being appealed." Fed. R. App. P. 3(c)(1)(B). Nonetheless, this court repeatedly has held "a mistake in designating the judgment appealed from should not bar appeal as long as the intent to appeal a specific judgment can be fairly inferred and the appellee is not prejudiced by the mistake." Lynn v. Sheet Metal Workers' Int'l Ass'n, 804 F.2d 1472, 1481 (9th Cir. 1986) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). "In determining whether 'intent' and 'preju- dice' are present, we apply a two-part test: first, whether the affected party had notice of the issue on appeal; and, second, whether the affected party had an opportunity to fully brief the issue." Id.

Ahlmeyer's notice of appeal meets both of these requirements. First, the notice of appeal stated precisely the issue presented to this court: whether the district court erred in denying Ahlmeyer's motion to amend her complaint. Second, the NSHE and Reed had the opportunity fully to brief the issue on ...


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