Daniel Victor reports via The New York Times: Ending a case that electrified punctuation pedants, grammar goons and comma connoisseurs, Oakhurst Dairy settled an overtime dispute with its drivers that hinged entirely on the lack of an Oxford comma in state law. The dairy company in Portland, Me., agreed to pay $5 million to the drivers (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source), according to court documents filed on Thursday. The relatively small-scale dispute gained international notoriety last year when the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that the missing comma created enough uncertainty to side with the drivers, granting those who love the Oxford comma a chance to run a victory lap across the internet. But the resolution means there will be no ruling from the land's highest courts on whether the Oxford comma — the often-skipped second comma in a series like "A, B, and C" — is an unnecessary nuisance or a sacred defender of clarity, as its fans and detractors endlessly debate.
The case began in 2014, when three truck drivers sued the dairy for what they said was four years' worth of overtime pay they had been denied. Maine law requires time-and-a-half pay for each hour worked after 40 hours, but it carved out exemptions for: The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: agricultural produce; meat and fish products; and perishable foods. What followed the last comma in the first sentence was the crux of the matter: "packing for shipment or distribution of." The court ruled that it was not clear whether the law exempted the distribution of the three categories that followed, or if it exempted packing for the shipment or distribution of them. Had there been a comma after "shipment," the meaning would have been clear.
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