updated 10/2/2005 6:20:57 PM ET 2005-10-02T22:20:57

Microsoft Corp. this month is expected to begin paying $72 million to nearly 8,600 former contract workers who were part of a 1992 class-action lawsuit claiming they were denied benefits.

The workers, “permatemps” who were hired during Microsoft’s early growth spurt, won a $97 million settlement in 2001 after a court found they were improperly restricted from the company stock-purchase plan. The ruling forced Microsoft to change its temporary-worker policies and limit contract lengths. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

There have been years of delays and procedural haggling since the verdict, and several of the original plaintiffs sued because they thought their lawyers’ $27 million share was too much. Then the courts had to review the cases of individual plaintiffs who felt shorted. The IRS also had to determine how much to tax the payouts.

But on Friday, a federal judge overseeing the case approved a payout plan. Checks are expected to be mailed Oct. 17, said Judith Bendich, one of the plaintiffs’ lawyers.

After legal fees, processing costs and early payouts to a small group of plaintiffs — along with interest the money earned since 2001 — there’s $72 million left to distribute to the remaining class members. That is $8,429 each, on average, before payroll taxes.

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