portion of Hukill's deposition for support. However, Hukill was simply responding to a hypothetical and, when read in its proper context, his testimony completely supports defendant's contentions. He stated that accrued vacation pay did not extend the period of employment, that the date of termination would be shown by the personnel records, and that the relevant personnel forms established March 29, 1974, as plaintiff's date of termination.
In Monroe v. Penn-Dixie Cement Corporation, 335 F. Supp. 231 (N.D.Ga. 1971), plaintiff was discharged as of May 17, 1968. He argued, however, that his employment continued for five additional weeks since he was entitled to and received five weeks' accrued vacation pay. The date of his employment termination was important because his claim against the defendant, his former employer, was based on the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., which became effective during that five week period. Ruling against plaintiff, the court held the paid vacation time did not change the date of his discharge, a vacation with pay being, in effect, only additional pay for work already done. Although plaintiff had a contractual or quasi-contractual right to the vacation pay when he was discharged, the right to receive pay did not include the right to continue as defendant's employee. Since the Age Discrimination Act had not become effective when plaintiff was discharged, he had no cause of action based on its provisions. Id. at 234. That reasoning is equally applicable here. Mr. Lehner's right to receive the vacation pay resulted from his having worked nine months past his employment anniversary date. His right to vacation pay, however, cannot be construed to extend the employment relationship beyond the date he chose as the effective date of his resignation.
4. The pension plan increases do not apply to employees who terminated their employment prior to April 1, 1974.
Plaintiff's final argument is that the increases should be made applicable to pensioners who, although terminating prior to April 1, 1974, do not apply for pension benefits until after that date. This contention rests on the wording of the resolution passed on March 25, 1974,
and the Crane Pension Plan implemented in 1965.
Lehner points out that under the terms of the plan he cannot receive benefits until 1989. At that time, no less than 90 days before he reaches 65 and as a prerequisite for payment, he will have to submit a formal application. Thus he argues he will not "qualify" for his pension until after March 31, 1974, and is therefore entitled to the increased amount. Defendant, on the other hand, contends that the operative date is not the date of application, but the date when employment terminates, i.e. a pensioner must have been an employee as of April 1, 1974, in order to "qualify" for the greater payments.
Plaintiff's argument, in essence, is premised on his assertion that "qualify" in this instance should be equated with his performance of the mechanical tasks necessary to trigger payments, such as the completion of the pension application forms. There is some support for the position that "qualify" refers to the routine acts necessary to obtain some benefit for which prior eligibility exists. In Bradley v. Clark, 65 P. 395, 133 Cal. 196 (1901), the California Supreme Court, in interpreting a state constitutional provision, found that "eligible" means capable of being chosen, while "qualified" refers to one who has taken the official oath and executed the official bond. See also Holley v. Adams, 238 So.2d 401 (1970). But there are also many instances where "qualify," as used in a statute, has been construed to mean something more than the performance of these minor acts. Where reemployment was sought by an individual returning from duty in the armed services, the word "qualified" as used in the Military Selective Service Act meant that the veteran must have the requisite mind, temperament, and character for the position. Trusteed Funds v. Dacey, 160 F.2d 413, 420-21 (1st Cir. 1947); Greathouse v. Babcock and Wilcox Company, 381 F. Supp. 156, 163 (N.D. Ohio 1974); Bozar v. Central Pennsylvania Quarry, Strip & Const. Co., 73 F. Supp. 803, 811 (M.D.Pa. 1947). "Qualify" has also been equated with "eligible." For instance, in Associated Transport, Inc. v. Fowler, 206 Tenn. 642, 337 S.W.2d 5 (1960), the court dealt with an application for a transfer of certificates of convenience granted for the transportation of freight and whether the purchaser was "in all respects qualified." The court construed this provision to entail an examination of the purchaser's financial condition, the applicant's character, and its ability to render service. In United States v. Blasius, 397 F.2d 203 (2d Cir. 1968), cert. dismissed 393 U.S. 1008, 89 S. Ct. 615, 21 L. Ed. 2d 557 (1969), an attorney was convicted of making representations that he was "qualified" to prepare applications for a patent although he was not recognized to practice before the patent office. The court found that "qualified," as used in the criminal statute, carried "its primary and more ordinary meaning of possessing particular skill or 'know-how' in performing certain tasks or functions rather than the more legalistic meaning . . . [of] having formal legal authority to perform particular tasks or functions . . ." Id. at 206.
It is therefore clear that "qualified" may have at least two different meanings -- it may refer to one who has a particular status through some endowment, acquisition, or achievement, or it may describe one who has obtained appropriate legal power or capacity by taking an oath, completing a form, or complying with some other routine requirement. Complicating this matter, of course, is the fact that both "eligible" and "qualified" are used in the same provision in the March 25, 1974, resolution. Despite the strength of plaintiff's arguments, I find that the more reasonable interpretation is the one advanced by defendant. While I agree "that application within the specified periods is a mandatory step to in any way 'qualify' as that word means in its ordinary sense, for pension benefits," Plaintiff's Memoranda In Answer to Defendant's Reply Memoranda, p. 3 (emphasis added), I also conclude that the critical factor necessary for qualification was employment as of April 1, 1974.
The pension plan provides that it is to be interpreted in accordance with the laws of Illinois. Defendant's Exhibit 10, p. 17 (Section VI, par. 8). Under Illinois law, a voluntary pension plan
is subject to the normal rules of contract interpretation. Guinzy v. Curtice Burns, Inc., 28 Ill. App. 3d 398, 327 N.E.2d 284, 286 (1975) ("rights of the participants under a private pension plan are governed by the terms of the plan"). It is not necessarily subject to the rule that it must be construed against its author, Crane, as plaintiff contends. This argument was addressed and rejected in Hurd v. Illinois Telephone Company, supra, where the district court found:
The plaintiffs have relied on this rule as a command to adopt each interpretation of the Bell Plan which they put forward. But it can have no such effect. At best it is a secondary rule of interpretation, a "last resort" which may be invoked after all of the ordinary interpretative guides have been exhausted and there remain two or more reasonable interpretations of the language in question (citations omitted). The defect in the plaintiffs' case is that they have applied none of the other principles of interpretation. Rather, they have isolated certain words or phrases and assigned to them a precise meaning which was designed to create ambiguity and then resolved the resulting ambiguity in their own favor. Such a course would not lead to a proper interpretation of the contract. The court has at all times been guided by what it finds to have been the principal purpose of the . . . [plan] and particularly of the provisions in issue here and by what the language was intended to mean and known by the plaintiffs to mean. Id. at 134.