There are those that use Oxford commas, and those that don’t. Those that don’t are wrong. Sorry, but we’re not sorry. Here’s why.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit issued a ruling this week that proves why Oxford commas are important.

The facts are pretty simple.

A dairy company in Maine refused to pay overtime wages to truck drivers distributing their dairy products based on a Maine law that said that companies don’t have to pay overtime wages for workers providing the following services: “[t]he 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 truck drivers argued that the statute applied to workers packing dairy products for shipment and workers packing dairy products for distribution, but not to workers that were only distributing dairy products. Their argument was based on the lack of an oxford comma after “packing for shipment.”

The Court of Appeals agreed and held that the truck drivers were entitled to overtime wages.

Had the statute said “…packing for shipment, or distribution of…” (Oxford comma added in red), the truck drivers probably would have lost because it would then be clear that “distribution” was separate from “packing.” But the Main legislature, for whatever reason, chose not to include the comma, and therefore distribution was not exempt from the overtime laws.

Oxford comma for the win!

You can read the whole opinion here.

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*This article is very general in nature and does not constitute legal advice.