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In brief: W.R. Grace gets more time for appeal

W.R. Grace & Co. has more time to file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in the government’s asbestos case against it.

The company is expected to ask the high court to a review a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowing certain evidence to be used at trial.

Grace originally had until next week to file its petition, but Justice Anthony Kennedy granted an extension until April 14.

A 2005 indictment charged the chemical manufacturer and seven of its former managers with conspiring to hide health risks associated with its Libby vermiculite mine, which closed in 1990. Grace has denied any criminal wrongdoing.

– Associated Press


EEOC sues Fred Meyer over harassment claims

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against the Fred Meyer retail chain over management practices at its Oregon City store.

The commission said Fred Meyer allowed top-level managers to sexually harass several female employees and then retaliated against the woman who first complained to her bosses.

Officials at Kroger Co., the Cincinnati-based parent of Fred Meyer, were not immediately available for comment.

The complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Oregon, alleges that senior-level managers subjected an employee and her female co-workers to “a constant barrage of sexually offensive and degrading comments.”

The commission also said that Fred Meyer refused to take any meaningful action to stop the harassment.

“When you have senior-level managers engaged in sexual harassment, the tone is set in the workplace,” said William Tamayo, EEOC regional attorney in San Francisco. “An employer who fails to take notice of illegal behavior in its workplace is only inviting litigation.”

– Associated Press


Microsoft site glitch blocking user logins

An undisclosed technical glitch blocked users from logging on to Microsoft Corp.’s free Web-based e-mail service and other sites Tuesday.

After several hours, the software maker was able to reduce but not completely fix the problem that left Web surfers around the world unable to access Hotmail and other services that require a Microsoft login. Those include the Xbox Live video game community site and the Windows Live Messenger instant messaging program.

“The issue is purely impacting the login process for customers and largely does not impact customers who were already logged in,” said Microsoft spokeswoman Samantha McManus in a statement. “We have made significant progress in decreasing the number of customers currently affected since initial reports, but the issue has not yet been completely resolved.”

Microsoft did not say what caused the problem.

McManus said the sites will be working again for all users “shortly.”

– Associated Press