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Workers who fill customer orders for Internet retailer Amazon might be out of luck in their quest to be paid for time spent going through security checkpoints to prevent theft each day. Several Supreme Court justices expressed doubts Wednesday about their argument. The dispute involves two former workers at a Nevada warehouse who say their employer, Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc., made them to wait up to 25 minutes in security lines at the end of every shift. Integrity claims no extra pay is required because security is unrelated to the workers' core job duties. Amazon spokeswoman Kelly Cheeseman says company data show that warehouse employees walk through security screenings "with little or no wait."
A federal appeals court ruled that the workers should be paid because the anti-theft screenings were necessary to the primary work they performed and was done for the employer's benefit. But Mark Thierman, lawyer for the workers, ran into trouble Wednesday when he tried to make that argument. "But no one's principal activity is going through security screenings," said Chief Justice John Roberts. "It may be part of that, that you go through security at the end of the day, but that doesn't make it a principal activity." Business groups worry that employers could be liable for billions of dollars in retroactive pay.