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Micro$oft loses second appeal of class-action suit

Temps deserve nice perks too, the Supreme Court believes

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The US Supreme Court has refused to entertain Microsoft's appeal of a US appellate court ruling on a class-action suit which makes temporary and contract workers eligible to buy discounted shares through the company's employee stock purchase scheme. Originally, a US district court had limited eligibility to a handful of workers, but the appellate court ruled that any temporary or contract employee who had worked at least twenty hours per week for at least five months in any year since 1987 should be eligible to participate in the company's shares purchase scheme, which offers a fifteen per cent discount. The appeals court left Microsoft with the burden of proof over which workers could be excluded from the class, with the result that many thousands are expected to qualify. In its request to be heard, Microsoft claimed to be swamped with claims from temporary and contract workers seeking compensation. The Court, apparently, was unmoved. The decision will undoubtedly expose to similar liability a large number of companies that hire temporary employees and independent contractors, a common practice in the US usually undertaken as a means of escaping such routine obligations as job security and fringe benefits. The Supreme Court rejected an earlier appeal from Microsoft regarding this same case in 1998. The nine Justices on Monday rejected Microsoft's latest request unanimously, and without comment. ®

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