A Win for Nerdy Linguists Everywhere!

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Each week we post a blog about relevant legal issues.  Glance through our various topics to learn more about a particular legal situation.

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A Win for Nerdy Linguists Everywhere!
Written By: Josh Lowell ~ 3/22/2017

For decades', linguists and professional comma users everywhere have been stuck in a fearsome debate. The serial comma - more commonly known as the Oxford comma - is an obligation to some; yet, it remains irrelevant to others. The main, but not sole, use of an Oxford comma is while listing three or more items in a sentence. It forces a comma between the conjunction (i.e. the words and, or, and but) and the final listed item. For a good (yet confusing) example look no further than the parenthesized clause above. The Oxford comma is the second comma between the word 'or' and 'and'.

This debate has finally played itself out in a Crazy Case in court. Employees had sued the Oakhurst Dairy regarding their qualifications for overtime pay. Maine law confirms that certain employees do not qualify for overtime pay, including those involved in: "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."

Lawmakers in Maine did not adhere to the Oxford comma, which led to the court ruling in favor of five delivery drivers in this Crazy Case. Was overtime pay excluded to those involved in packing for both shipment and di stribution; or excluded for packing for shipment and those who distribute the packages? The court found that without the Oxford comma (i.e. "packing for shipment, or distribution") the clause was ambiguous and should be construed in favor of the employees. If you want to make sure your t's are crossed, i's are dotted, and commas are properly used, call Magnuson Lowell today.


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