The soft drinks bottler Pepsi Bottling Group has been made to pay US$17.4m in back wages and interest to nearly 800 delivery drivers in New Jersey for overtime work from 1993 through to September 2002.

The order was made by the state's Office of Administrative Law, after a ruling by the New Jersey State Appeals court that the drivers, who sell and deliver beverages, qualified for overtime pay. PBG had argued that that the employees should be exempt from getting overtime because they are technically sales representatives.

The original complaint was filed by employees in 1994.

A PBG spokeswoman said the company was "happy to have found an agreeable solution". PBG also had to pay US$8m in administrative fees and penalties to the state.

The payments to the current and former employees range from US$9.22 to about US$144,000, with an average of $23,000.