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Hanover-based Utz Quality Foods is facing a federal lawsuit from current and past truck drivers who allege the company has failed to pay them overtime wages.

The lawsuit, which is seeking three years worth of damages, alleges that Utz "willfully withheld and failed to pay wages and overtime compensation to which ('non-exempt' employees) were entitled," according to court filings.The delivery drivers are seeking relief under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which states that certain employees are due time and a half pay for working past 40 hours in a week.

In its court-submitted response, Utz denied the drivers were entitled to overtime compensation because their job duties make them exempt under the labor act's "outside sales" exception.

Hans Nilges, the plaintiffs' lead attorney, said these employees' primary job is delivering and stocking, not sales activity. Utz would have the burden of proving these employees are sales people if the case reaches court, he said.

Utz's attorneys did comment on the pending case.

Nilges said he's represented employees in several similar cases, and each was settled before reaching trial.Three men — Brian Jurden, Jason Swiger and Julio Cruz — are listed as plaintiffs in court documents, but 255 other drivers have since opted into the lawsuit, according to Nilges. The plaintiffs, which could reach nearly 2,000 drivers, are being represented by Ohio law firms Nilges Draher LLC and The Lazzarro Law Firm, LLC.The collective action suit, originally filed in Ohio, was transferred to the U.S. District Court in Harrisburg on Nov. 17, according to filings.

"But there's a first time for everything," he said.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com.

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