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'Oxford comma helps drivers win dispute about overtime pay'

 
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'Oxford comma helps drivers win dispute about overtime ... - 3/16/2017 7:56:04 PM   
Zorch

 

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https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/16/oxford-comma-helps-drivers-win-dispute-about-overtime-pay

An overtime case that will delight language nerds everywhere hinges on the absence of an Oxford comma

Never let it be said that punctuation doesn’t matter.

In Maine, the much-disputed Oxford comma has helped a group of dairy drivers in a dispute with a company about overtime pay.

The Oxford comma is used before the words “and” or “or” in a list of three or more things. Also known as the serial comma, its aficionados say it clarifies sentences in which things are listed.

As Grammarly notes, the sentences “I love my parents, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty” and “I love my parents, Lady Gaga, and Humpty Dumpty” are a little different. Without a comma, it looks like the parents in question are, in fact, Lady Gaga and Humpty Dumpty.

In a judgment that will delight Oxford comma enthusiasts everywhere, a US court of appeals sided with delivery drivers for Oakhurst Dairy because the lack of a comma made part of Maine’s overtime laws too ambiguous.

United States Court of Appeals
For the First Circuit, No. 16-1901 (March 13, 2017), Judge Barron:

The state’s law says the following activities do not count for overtime pay:

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 argued, due to a lack of a comma between “packing for shipment” and “or distribution”, the law refers to the single activity of “packing”, not to “packing” and “distribution” as two separate activities. As the drivers distribute – but do not pack – the goods, this would make them eligible for overtime pay.

Previously, a district court had ruled in the dairy company’s favour, who argued that the legislation “unambiguously” identified the two as separate activities exempt from overtime pay. But the appeals judge sided with the drivers.

Circuit judge David J. Barron wrote:

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.

The Oxford comma ignites considerable passion among its proponents and opponents. In 2011, when it was wrongly reported that the Oxford comma was being dropped by the University of Oxford style guide, there was uproar.

“Who gives a f*** about an Oxford comma?” opens one Vampire Weekend song.

The Guardian style guide has the following to say about Oxford commas:

a comma before the final “and” in lists: straightforward ones (he ate ham, eggs and chips) do not need one, but sometimes it can help the reader (he ate cereal, kippers, bacon, eggs, toast and marmalade, and tea).

Sometimes it is essential: compare

I dedicate this book to my parents, Martin Amis, and JK Rowling

with

I dedicate this book to my parents, Martin Amis and JK Rowling




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< Message edited by Zorch -- 3/16/2017 7:57:38 PM >
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RE: 'Oxford comma helps drivers win dispute about overt... - 3/17/2017 3:50:56 PM   
Orm


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Thank you for sharing.

Very interesting.

And after reading this I am in full agreement of the appeal courts ruling. Not that anybody cares.

The appeals judge is apparently literate, can read, and understand, simple sentences. One must also assume that those who write the law, can write well enough, so that there can be no misunderstanding when applying said law. However, it seems that there is no requirement to be literate in order to be a member of the district court.

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RE: 'Oxford comma helps drivers win dispute about overt... - 3/17/2017 4:23:54 PM   
Qwixt


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I did not know that comma usage had a specific name.

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RE: 'Oxford comma helps drivers win dispute about overt... - 3/17/2017 4:42:08 PM   
Mobius


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This is a new one for a court. Heretofor is seemed courts were siding with the intent of the law writers. Thus having to get into the head of the law writers. I don't know which way is better.

Plus something like:
The best basketball teams are the final four, Gonzanga and Villanova. It doesn't make sense that two teams are four teams.

< Message edited by Mobius -- 3/17/2017 4:47:59 PM >


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RE: 'Oxford comma helps drivers win dispute about overt... - 3/17/2017 5:13:00 PM   
Orm


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If courts follow the intent of the law then that is nice. But courts can not go against the written law just because they guess what the intent of the law makers were. It is upon the law makers to write law that can not be misunderstood. And for the lawmakers to make clarifications and examples where needed. I thought that was why we pay them a lot of money.

One thing that concerns me is that there seem to be a reluctance to change, or update, some of the old laws. Should we really leave it up to judges to try and guess what the intention was when they wrote a law a hundred years ago? Or even 40 years ago? Even with newly written laws it can be quite hard to guess what the politicians intended.

Therefore I land on that the law, must be adhered to, as written. And, when in doubt, it would be nice if the weaker part would be protected.

However, what do I know.

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RE: 'Oxford comma helps drivers win dispute about overt... - 3/17/2017 8:12:50 PM   
Zorch

 

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Over here, ambiguous contracts are generally interpreted against the party that wrote them. Is this true elsewhere?

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RE: 'Oxford comma helps drivers win dispute about overt... - 5/12/2017 4:25:07 AM   
hidexas5

 

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Thank for your posting.

< Message edited by hidexas5 -- 9/9/2017 7:38:43 AM >

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RE: 'Oxford comma helps drivers win dispute about overt... - 5/12/2017 10:12:59 AM   
Zap


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quote:

ORIGINAL: hidexas5

Thank for your posting. It is helpful.


Funny, we have an example here in this post. Is the above written to mean what it says or is there another intention behind it.

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