Oakhurst Settles Lawsuit From Drivers for $5 Million Over a Comma
Have you ever heard of the Oxford comma? Don't feel bad if you haven't. It's one of those odd things in grammar that people can't seem to agree on.
The Oxford comma is placed after the second to last word in a list. For example:
I went to the grocery store to pick up cereal, bread, and milk.
Most of us were taught in school that there is no need for the second comma when the conjunction 'and' is present, so it would look like this:
I went to the grocery store to pick up cereal, bread and milk."
According to The New York Times, that tricky Oxford comma just cost Oakhurst Dairy $5 million in a settlement with drivers in court for overtime pay.
The problem came up because Maine State Law didn't use an Oxford comma when listing what does and does not qualify for mandatory overtime pay. The law states that these things are exempt from overtime pay.
The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:
(1) Agricultural produce;
(2) Meat and fish products; and
(3) Perishable foods.
This can be read two ways. Either the distribution of these three products is exempt from overtime pay or the packing for them is exempt. Drivers filed a lawsuit in 2014 saying that the way it was written they were due overtime pay, because they don't pack. They only ship.
One little comma would have changed everything.
Oakhurst decided to settle with the drivers this week for $5 million worth of overtime back pay.