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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Current and former employees of C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc. filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday accusing the transportation freight giant of failing to pay overtime wages.

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

The company strongly denied the accusations.

``Robinson is a people company, our employees are our most important assets,'' said Laura Gillund, vice president of human resources. She said the company would ``aggressively defend against the lawsuit.''

According to the complaint, Robinson, a company with $3 billion in revenues, failed to pay its sales force overtime for many years even though the employees were required to come in early, stay late, often work on weekends and be on call around the clock outside of regular work hours.

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

Last month, 14 women filed another 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.

Robinson shares fell 99 cents to close at $29.83 Thursday on the Nasdaq Stock Market.