Coca-Cola Co is to pay out some US$8m in compensation after it was found that the soft drinks giant had underpaid more than 2,000 current and former employees.

The discovery comes after an audit conducted by a federal agency, as well as an internal review by the company itself.

Coca-Cola will, under an agreement with the US Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, pay US$4.2m to 980 current and former employees who hold or held mostly professional-level positions at the company's headquarters in Atlanta.

And Coca-Cola also said that an internal review had revealed similar mistakes in pay to 1,100 employees in other North American operations. They will receive a total of US$3.9m.

"We strive to cultivate a workplace that encourages our employees to develop and perform to their fullest potential," Coretha Rushing, Coca-Cola's senior vice president for human resources, said in an employee memo announcing the company's plans to make amends. "We've learned a great deal about our human resources practices, and we're acting on what we've learned."

Coca-Cola has now had to pay out spent just over US$200m to amend its employment practices. In late 2000 the soft drink giant had to hand over $192.5m after it lost a lawsuit  that alleged disparities in pay and promotions for its African-American employees.