Microsoft Corp. isn't the only employer facing legal action over the benefits available for its temporary workers and independent contractors.

The Labor Department filed a lawsuit in October 1998 against Time Warner Inc. in New York alleging the entertainment conglomerate had violated federal pension law by mis-categorizing several hundred workers employed as journalists, photographers and graphic artists as "project," "supplemental," "temporary" or "independent contractors," rather than regular employees.

It said the workers did not receive the health and pension benefits given to regular employees, although they worked for the company for extended periods of time. Those temps were referred to as "green requisition or green req" employees.

In a statement, Time Warner defended its work arrangements as allowing the company and the workers to maintain their flexibility. "The DOL's lawsuit is a classic example of bureaucratic overreaching and posturing," it added.

Meanwhile, the Seattle law firm representing the Microsoft temporary workers, Bendich, Stobaugh & Strong, has filed similar lawsuits against the legal department of Los Angeles County, where some longtime lawyers were designated "temporaries" and others given traditional employment status, and oil company Atlantic Richfield Co. of Los Angeles.

The Arco case involves a group of oil industry workers overseeing pipeline operations in Alaska. They allege they were trained by Arco staff, used Arco equipment, were fed and housed at Arco facilities and did work on behalf of the firm for up to 10 years, but were denied employee designation and benefits.

"These were workers who worked for oil service companies--they never worked for Arco," said corporate spokeswoman Linda Dozier.