Monday, November 22, 2021

The Commas That Cost Companies Millions

In 2018, a dairy company in the US city of Portland, Maine settled a court case for $5m because of a missing comma.

Three lorry drivers for Oakhurst Dairy claimed that they were owed years of unpaid overtime wages, all because of the way commas were used in legislation governing overtime payments.

The state’s laws declared that overtime wasn’t due for workers 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”.

The drivers managed to successfully argue that because there was no comma after “shipment” and before “or distribution”, they were owed overtime pay. If a comma had been there, the law would have explicitly ruled out those who distribute perishable foods.


Quite right too. If you don't follow the literal meaning of the words in the statute, you're on the slippery slope to Communism.

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