Current and former employees of C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. filed a lawsuit in federal court yesterday, accusing the company of failing to pay overtime wages.

The plaintiffs allege that nearly all of the Eden Prairie, MN-based company's sales force was mischaracterized as exempt to deprive them of overtime wages for working more than 40 hours a week.

According to the complaint, Robinson failed to pay its sales force overtime even though the employees were required to come in early, stay late, often had to work on weekends and had to be on call around the clock outside of regular work hours.

"It is sad to see this company with $3 billion in revenues trying to cheat its employees out of their overtime pay," said Seymour J. Mansfield, lead counsel for the plaintiffs. "C.H. Robinson apparently felt it could unfairly exploit the long hours of these sales people to its further profit, and then dodge paying for these extra efforts."

Laura Gillund, vp human resources at Robinson, denied the charges and said the company would "aggressively defend against the lawsuit."

Mansfield said more than 2,000 current and former employees could become part of the lawsuit if they join as part of a class action.

This is the second lawsuit filed by Robinson employees in the past month.

In October, 14 women filed federal lawsuit accusing Robinson of gender discrimination, saying the company created a "flagrantly hostile" work environment and routinely denied women promotions, equitable salaries and overtime pay.

That lawsuit seeks class-action status for more than 1,000 former and current female employees.