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Microsoft Moving to Ban Long-Term Temps
Associated Press

REDMOND, Wash. (AP) — Microsoft Corp. is limiting its temporary workers to one year of employment at a time, with 100-day intervals in between — a move that will force up to 1,500 of its long-term contract workers to find new jobs or seek permanent positions with the company.

Microsoft's policy change, announced Friday, follows pressure from litigation and union organizers to bar use of so-called "permatemps" — temporary workers who stay in the same job for years, but without the benefits offered permanent workers.

The software giant began informing temp agencies early last week of the new policy, which goes into effect July 1.

In the past, there was no limit on the amount of time temp workers could stay at Microsoft.

Microsoft "is slowly but painfully finding out that they have to treat people who work full time, year round, as regular employees," said Mike Blain, a former contract worker at Microsoft and co-founder of the Washington Association of Technical Workers, a local labor group.

The company's permatemp practice was challenged in two lawsuits filed by long-term temporary workers who want permanent-worker benefits. Microsoft lost one case, which won temp workers the right to buy Microsoft stock at a 15 percent discount. The second lawsuit, seeking medical and retirement benefits, is pending.

Sharon Decker, Microsoft's director of contingent staffing, said the company made the change because of the lawsuits and negative publicity surrounding the permatemp issue.

Microsoft has been aggressively hiring temp workers into full-time positions for the past couple of years, she said — and about 35 percent of new hires have worked there as temps.

"We want to make sure that our temporary assignments are true short-term assignments, and one of the criteria is that they should be less than 12 months," Decker said.

The average temporary assignment at the company is about 10 months, she said.

Decker encouraged Microsoft's 5,500 to 6,000 temp workers — most of whom are among the 13,800 people at its headquarters in this east Seattle suburb — to apply for the 3,000 permanent positions now open. Microsoft has about 32,000 employees worldwide.

The company's new temp-limits policy reflects those at such companies as IBM and Intel, said Rob Enderle, an analyst at information-technology advisory firm Giga Information Group.

"They are bringing the corporate policy in line with the law," Enderle said. "You should never have a temporary person working for more than one year."

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