You’ve probably seen clever musings about the need for commas. “Let’s eat, Grandma!” versus “let’s eat Grandma” goes from joyful to dreadful, all for want of a lowly comma.
In O’Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy, the lowly comma brought down a giant. Maine’s overtime statute says that the employer doesn’t have to pay overtime for people whose jobs involve “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” (emphasis added). In comes Mr. O’Connor, whose job involves driving a truck, i.e. distribution. When he didn’t get paid overtime, he sued. His legal argument, in so many words, was “I don’t do packing for shipment, nor do I do packing for distribution. I just do the distribution without doing any packing at all.” And the Court agreed.
How can your company avoid being brought low by punctuation? By having a good lawyer who can help make sure your company policies actually say what you think you mean them to say. And by making sure your company is reading the law as it should be read.