Honeywell Cleared in Early Retirement Suit

July 16, 2010 ( – A federal judge in Maryland has rebuffed claims by a Honeywell International pension participant that she was entitled to early retirement even though it had been promised her in a mistaken benefit statement and separation agreement.

U.S. District Judge Roger W. Titus of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland said Honeywell did not act improperly in rejecting plaintiff Mariela Valderrama’s claim for early retirement eligibility. Valderrama simply didn’t quality under Honeywell’s 80-point early retirement program because she hadn’t accumulated the necessary points under the arrangement, Titus ruled.

After being laid off from Honeywell in 2002 and given severance payments, Titus said Valderrama was still more than 50 months from her 80-point early retirement date, and that her age plus years of service totaled only 71.6411 points.

Further, Titus ruled, the employer had reasonably concluded that Valderrama did not qualify for a bridge-leave period to take her to early retirement because she was more than 50 months from qualifying for the benefit. Titus explained that the plan document said an employee was eligible for bridge leave if he or she was within 36 months of qualifying.

Finally, Titus put aside Valderrama’s argument that she was promised the early retirement benefits in a separation agreement and in a benefit estimate. Valderrama had not relied on the erroneous documents to her harm so they can’t be the basis for a claim under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), the court held.

The case is Valderrama v. Honeywell TSI Aerospace Services, D. Md., No. RWT 09cv2114.