October 21, 2005 5:00 PM PDT

Microsoft 'permatemp' checks finally arrive

Randy Alfred has been waiting for a check in the mail for five years. On Friday, his birthday, it finally arrived.

Alfred, a former copy editor at Microsoft's SF Sidewalk division, is one of thousands of erstwhile Microsoft temporary workers at the software giant now receiving a legal settlement that has been held up in court for years.

The case itself stretches all the way back to 1992, when long-term temporary workers, or "permatemps," as they later became known, alleged that they were unfairly being locked out of benefits such as discounted stock purchases enjoyed by the company's regular employees.

The dispute wound through courts all the way until December 2000, when the two sides reached a $97 million settlement agreement. But it took another near-five years before the details were worked out.

"This has been going on forever," said Alfred, a computer consultant who worked with SF Sidewalk between 1997 and 1999. "I'm glad I wasn't relying on it to pay the rent."

For Microsoft, the final distribution of the settlement funds--approved by a court late last month--means little from a financial perspective.

The company put its share of the funds into an escrow account shortly after the settlement was reached. But continuing disputes, including an appeal by workers challenging the $27 million attorneys' fees, and confusion over how the settlement would be taxed, kept the funds in limbo until this year.

The actual amount for each employee varies, from hundreds to potentially tens of thousands of dollars. A complicated formula takes as a base the amount that each employee could have invested in the company's discounted stock purchase plan, and then looks at how much the stock would have appreciated in a year.

Thus, people who were employees in the boom years, when Microsoft's stock was climbing fast, likely did better than employees during relatively flat years. The settlement covers any temporary workers who were employed for at least nine consecutive months at Microsoft between 1986 and 2000.

"When we reached that agreement, we were very pleased, as was the other side," said Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos. "It has been resolved, and we're very happy they're finally getting their money."

4 comments

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Modern best Business Practices
Just modern best business practice, called cheat the employee at every turn, which is not unique to MS$, for EA was getting a free additional 60 extra working hours on top of the standard weekly 40 hours , whilst only paying employees for the first 40 hours, in direct contravention of the California Labour Laws. Major corporations, meat packing houses, some large scale factory farming corporations have a known history of deliberately and willingly employing undocumented workers , where possible to reduce payroll and wages costs(Walmart is but just one example of this form of cheating and deliberate grey scaling the labour laws, for paying below standard wages to undocumented persons working as store cleaners,most of whom were using a common social security number amongst other things, which resulted in an INS Fine)!
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
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I hope they're very proud of themselves!
They got paychecks significantly higher than the full time employees, AND now they get all the benefits that the full timers got in exchange for lower salaries.

Sweetheart deal if I ever heard of one! If they want those benefits, they should be required to give back the benefits of their higher paychecks.

Yes, they get paid more, that why quite a few contractors have no desire to go full time.
Posted by KTLA_knew (385 comments )
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I agree on the meat packers.
If INS were to raid any meat packer 90% of the workforce would be sent back to Mexico or Central America. I used to work for a packaging company and everything had to be color coded, because none of the people using the Cryovac contents of the product can read english. They'd do a meat product run in the wrong bag and before anyone who could read english caught it $40,000 dollars worth of mislabeled meat would be packaged and in a frozen meat locker ready to ship. Is that certified angus ribeye roast you purchased really certified angus? Why does the hamburger you purchase have a greater risk of e-coli? Could it be because if an American slices off his hand the companies liable and if an illiterate Mexican slices off his hand nobody cares.
Posted by Muddleme (99 comments )
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