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Lack of Oxford Comma Could Cost Maine
Company Millions in Overtime Dispute

New York Times, by Daniel Victor

Original Article

Posted By:MissMolly, 3/17/2017 4:53:26 AM

A class-action lawsuit about overtime pay for truck drivers hinged entirely on a debate that has bitterly divided friends, families and foes: The dreaded — or totally necessary — Oxford comma, perhaps the most polarizing of punctuation marks. What ensued in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and in a 29-page court decision handed down on Monday, was an exercise in high-stakes grammar pedantry that could cost a dairy company in Portland, Me., an estimated $10 million. In 2014, three truck drivers sued Oakhurst Dairy, seeking more than four years’ worth of overtime pay that they

Comments:
I´m a believer that too many commas are always better than too few.

      


Post Reply  

Reply 1 - Posted by: peeps, 3/17/2017 5:05:51 AM     (No. 11192155)

Me too, OP. On your shopping list, "oil, vinegar" is not the same as "oil and vinegar", just saying.

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Reply 2 - Posted by: doctorfixit, 3/17/2017 5:28:56 AM     (No. 11192163)

Thus illustrates that no matter how you arrange little specs of ink on paper, or pixels on a screen, there is no way to prevent some weasel lawyer or judge from declaring they mean the opposite of what was intended.

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Reply 3 - Posted by: hpmatt, 3/17/2017 7:08:22 AM     (No. 11192208)

Drive the company bankrupt or drive up their insurance premiums too high where they go out of business, then the state can provide your milk, or figure out a way to get into the taxpayers pocket. Crooked news from a crooked paper.

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Reply 4 - Posted by: Pchristopher, 3/17/2017 7:48:45 AM     (No. 11192228)

Oh, good God (Face-palm)

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Reply 5 - Posted by: harleynyc, 3/17/2017 9:53:15 AM     (No. 11192459)

I, for one, feel strongly, that, PACKING was the action word.

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Reply 6 - Posted by: earlybird, 3/17/2017 10:21:18 AM     (No. 11192514)

It shouldn’t. The entire sentence is a listing of diverse elements and the comma would have preceded the “or”. The meaning is clear.

The packers for shipment don’t distribute. Nor do the canners, processors, etc. "Distribution of" is clearly another classification in this exempt list.

Look at it this way:
canning,
processing,
preserving,
freezing,
drying,
marketing,
storing,
packing for shipment
or
distribution of:

And the “of” relates to each of the classifications listed.


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Reply 7 - Posted by: earlybird, 3/17/2017 12:01:05 PM     (No. 11192631)

I goofed.

In #6, I should have listed simply “distribution” as another classification. Not “distribution of”.

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Reply 8 - Posted by: stablemoney, 3/17/2017 12:48:41 PM     (No. 11192695)

The judge should have looked beyond the comma argument and explained why the language "or distribution of" was included. Under the judge´s interpretation, "or distribution of" would be meaningless. As for commas, they are for clarity, so these issues do not arise. So if you wish to be clearly understood, I suggest the comma.

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Reply 9 - Posted by: earlybird, 3/17/2017 10:14:25 PM     (No. 11193272)

It’s not over. Here’s where the court went - first zigging for the company, then zagging for the drivers. Then remanding:

The District Court concluded that, despite the absent comma, the Maine legislature unambiguously intended for the last term in the exemption´s list of activities to identify an exempt activity in its own right. The District Court thus granted summary judgment to the dairy company, as there is no dispute that the drivers do perform that activity. But, we conclude that the exemption´s scope is actually not so clear in this regard. And because, under Maine law, ambiguities in the state´s wage and hour laws must be construed liberally in order to accomplish their remedial purpose, we adopt the drivers’ narrower reading of the exemption. We therefore reverse the grant of summary judgment and remand for further proceedings.

All this judgment did after parsing themselves into insanity, was reverse the original summary judgment to Oakhurst, the company.

Stay tuned.

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