The lack of an Oxford comma in the wording of a state law laying out what activities qualify a worker for overtime pay, more than 120 drivers for the Oakhurst Dairy became eligible for a multi-million settlement for unpaid overtime.

Maine Dairy Drivers Settle Overtime Case That Hinged On An Absent Comma

Here’s a story that might convince you that paying attention to your grammar lessons might one day put money in your pocket.

Thanks to the absence of the comma in the wording of a state law laying out what activities qualify a worker for overtime pay, more than 120 drivers for the Oakhurst Dairy in Portland, Maine, are eligible to share a $5 million legal settlement announced today.

The case started in 2014 when several drivers for the milk and cream company filed a lawsuit claiming that they never received overtime pay for which they were eligible.

A federal court in Maine ruled that the drivers were not entitled to overtime pay because the pertinent state law exempted those who perform these duties:

“The canning, processin… Continue Reading (2 minute read)

15 thoughts on “The lack of an Oxford comma in the wording of a state law laying out what activities qualify a worker for overtime pay, more than 120 drivers for the Oakhurst Dairy became eligible for a multi-million settlement for unpaid overtime.”

  1. kareko

    It’s ironic that your title for your post about a grammatical error includes grammatical errors.

  2. thatcoldguy

    Here you dropped these:
    -due
    -to
    – ,

  3. Fault_tolerant

    Why are ANY of those jobs exempt from overtime? those are all blue collar, hourly type jobs.

  4. jethroguardian

    Another Legal Eagle fan I see.

  5. PaxNova

    As ridiculous as it sounds, comma placement is a major factor in all sorts of things, including the 2nd Amendment.

  6. katrinaherrin

    I absolutely love and insist on the Oxford comma. I will defend it always, and I will die on that hill!

    If anyone tries to tell me it’s optional, I’ll offer to make them a sandwich and *dare* them to choose the last option when not using the Oxford comma. I can make ham, turkey, peanut butter and jelly and tuna.

  7. rayrayrex

    INAL but this reminded me of a prominent case in Canada known as the million dollar comma.

    A telecommunications company Bell was trying to end a 5-year contract with another company Rogers, over use of telephone polls.

    As such, Bell would have to pay Rogers 1 Million to break the contract.
    Due to a single misplaced comma, it was found that the contract could be broken every year within a 5-year timespan – meaning that Bell could break the contract and Rogers would get nothing.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/25/business/worldbusiness/25comma.html

  8. DoomGoober

    For anyone wanting to see the actual law:

    https://legislature.maine.gov/statutes/26/title26sec664.html

    >The overtime provision of this section does not apply to:

    >F. The canning; processing; preserving; freezing; drying; marketing; storing; packing for shipment; or distributing of:
    >(1) Agricultural produce;
    >(2) Meat and fish products; and
    >(3) Perishable foods.

    The law seems to have been updated to include commas (semicolons).

  9. quantizedself

    Why are there laws exempting overtime in the first place? Why would anyone want a job that makes you work overtime but not pay you appropriately for it?

  10. sigmabody

    This ruling is/was entirely deserved. If you don’t use the Oxford comma, you’re purposefully making the meaning of your sentence ambiguous. If you didn’t mean for the sentence to be ambiguous, then you’re just dumb. In either case, you’re allowing ambiguous interpretation, and the consequences thereof.

    Also, thank you for coming to my TED talk on entering grammar religious wars online.

  11. whipfinish

    What about the lack of a conjunction!

  12. 4LostSoulsinaBowl

    Oxford comma should be used by default. Only omit when it can cause confusion, as in: I’d like to thank my mother, Oprah, and God.

  13. TheCarterIII

    There’s your answer Vampire Weekend.

  14. sold_snek

    I really don’t get how the oxford comma isn’t standard. I frequently go through twice to make the sure the “and” isn’t actually combining anything rather than separating. I don’t see any possible cons to the oxford comma being standard but I do see a huge pro.

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