Benefits & Compensation News

The missing comma that cost this company $10 million

It’s probably safe to assume you can add this company to the list of those who loathe the Oxford comma.

The Oxford comma that cost one employer $10 million
Drivers for the Maine-based Oakhurst Dairy are getting $10 million in overtime back following a class-action lawsuit.

List of conditions

Specifically, a missing Oxford comma in the following list of conditions of when OT doesn’t apply sunk the company:

“… marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of productions.”

Lawyers for the class argued that a comma before the word “or” would be needed to explicitly deny overtime for workers who pack for shipment and, separately, for workers who distribute products.

And the lack of that single comma caused enough uncertainty to rule in favor of the employees.

The court add that:

“the section of the law is ambiguous, even after we take account of the relevant interpretive aids and the law’s purpose and legislative history. For that reason, we conclude that, under Maine law, we must construe the exemption in the narrow manner that the driver’s favor, as doing so furthers the overtime law’s remedial purposes.”

But it was the attorney representing the class of employees who summed everything up best when he said:

“[Inclusion of] that comma would have sunk our ship.”

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  • EvanOwen98248

    Sounds like the company should not loathe the Oxford comma, but rather the lack of one.