Oakhurst drivers to proceed with class-action overtime suit

  • Oakhurst drivers to proceed with class-action overtime suit

Oakhurst drivers to proceed with class-action overtime suit

Ah, the Oxford comma. Opponents think it's clunky and unnecessary. But fellow lovers of the Oxford comma, rejoice-we should feel vindicated, joyful, and content today.

A case brought by the dairy drivers against Oakhurst Dairy and Dairy Farmers of America Inc. about whether or not they qualified for overtime hinged on the lack of a comma in a sentence outlining duties that were exempted from overtime pay. But the appeals judge sided with the drivers.

Oakhurst representatives said they plan to keep fighting the suit and declined to comment on the comma kerfuffle. With the district court ruling in favor of Oakhurst reversed, Quartz reports the case can now be heard in a lower court. Packing is not part of the drivers' job role, meaning that they would be eligible for overtime pay. The merits of the serial comma (or Oxford comma, as it's popularly known) are often debated wherever English is taught, which means this otherwise-nondescript court case is sure to end up being quoted in classrooms around the country.

Oakhurst argued that "distribution of" was separate from "packing for shipment", which would allow the company to claim exemption from paying its delivery drivers over time.

Judge David Barron wrote that the case comes down to the comma. A comma after the word "shipment" might have clarified that the law does not cover distribution.

State law lists the activities that do not qualify 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".

Delivery drivers distribute perishable foods, but they don't pack the boxes themselves.

The truck drivers earned up to $52,000 a year without overtime and worked 12 extra hours each week on average, said Webbert. "Nobody can hurt you like an older man who doesn't mean to hurt you", she observes - wisdom that's just as useful for men as it for girls, teenaged or otherwise. Other authorities differ - notably, the Oxford University Press, from which the comma draws its popular name. But the drivers argued that "packing for shipment or distribution" is what was intended by the law-and that since they only deliver goods instead of packing them, they were owed money.

The Oxford style guide, published as New Hart's Rules, states that it is Oxford style "to retain or impose this last comma consistently".

Whatever the courts decide, the real lesson may be the need for clarity and concision.

A quick punctuation lesson before we proceed: in a list of three or more items - like "beans, potatoes and rice" - some people would put a comma after potatoes, and some would leave it out.