The US Department of Labor obtained a consent judgment as part of its efforts to recover $650,000 in unpaid overtime wages for 26 delivery drivers of a food manufacturer that misclassified them as independent contractors.

The action by the US District Court for the Central District of California requires Santa Fe Springs, California-based Romero’s Food Products Inc. to pay back wages to the affected employees. The court also forbade the company from future Fair Labor Standards Act violations and prohibited Romero from employing any worker for more than 40 hours in a workweek without paying them required overtime pay.

The litigation follows an investigation by the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division that found Romero’s Food Products misclassified the drivers as independent contractors, denying them the overtime rate required for hours over 40 in a workweek. The company employed the drivers to distribute its products to retail grocery outlets such as Walmart, Costco, Albertson’s and Stater Bros. Markets.

Romero’s also failed to maintain accurate employee records and forced many workers to enter into agreements to handle possible labor disputes outside of court, according to the department.

Founded in 1968, Romero’s Food Products manufactures, sells and distributes a line of Mexican-style food products throughout North America, Asia and Europe.

The court entered the judgment in April; it was announced June 7.

“Combating employee misclassification continues to be a US Department of Labor priority,” said Wage and Hour Division Assistant District Director Gayane Aleksanian in West Covina, California. “Employers cannot illegally pay delivery drivers as independent contractors and defend the violation as a common industry practice. Misclassifying employees deprives workers of their basic rights under labor law.”