Microsoft paid $97 million in 2001 to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging that temporary workers were denied benefits that permanent...

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Microsoft paid $97 million in 2001 to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging that temporary workers were denied benefits that permanent employees received. But four years later, the workers in the “permatemps” case still haven’t received any money.

That may change soon. The final hang-up in the payout resolved itself last week, when the Internal Revenue Service finally made a decision on how to tax the payouts.

Now, a claims administration company in Minneapolis will submit to the courts a plan for distributing the money, said David Stobaugh, a principal in the Seattle law firm that handled the case. Once that plan is approved, the administrator will likely have the green light to send out the checks.

The payouts aren’t going to make any of the recipients rich, but for many it might bring some closure to a case that seemingly had none.

“I’ve stopped holding my breath,” said Rebecca Hughes, a Seattle-based freelance writer who was part of the class.

A happy audience

Boeing spared no expense to cultivate the blogosphere last week, providing a flying demo of its in-flight Internet service to a select group.

It was marketing money well spent. The event turned into a lovefest when, at a lavish dinner, the hip young bloggers raised their Boeing-paid glasses of wine to toast the company and its technology, called Connexion.

About 10 bloggers from Seattle, San Francisco and elsewhere, along with a few mainstream journalists, flew from Boeing Field to Walla Walla, where they enjoyed dinner at a winery before flying back. One of the bloggers, DL Byron, consulted with Boeing to help it set up executive Randy Baseler’s corporate blog, one that promotes the company message unfiltered by traditional media skepticism.

Byron is also an organizer of the Blog Business Summit in San Francisco next month, a conference explicitly aimed at corporations and PR agencies keen to learn “how to create blogs that promote your business.”

Boeing, a conference “platinum sponsor,” is surely at the head of the class.

Journalists from the major press paid for their own dinners at the winery. The bloggers walked off the airplane with prizes — including an iPod Shuffle for one — and free bottles of wine.

And the Internet buzzed with breathless reviews afterward. “I’ve never been on a better flight,” posted Seattle-based blogger Chris Pirillo. “Never had so much fun on a plane.”

Harry who?

Bill Gates isn’t the biggest Harry Potter fan. At a faculty summit held at Microsoft last week, the chairman was asked onstage how many books in the series he had read.

“I read two, and then my daughter decided they were a little too scary,” he said. “But now I understand even adults are supposed to read them.”

Download can be reached at Seattle Times aeropace reporter Dominic Gates contributed to this column.