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3 Takeaways from the “Comma Case” That Go Beyond Grammar


Julie Saker Schlegel, an Associate in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s Newark office, authored an article in Law360, titled “3 Takeaways from the ‘Comma Case’ That Go Beyond Grammar.” (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

A Maine dairy company has received a potentially expensive grammar lesson from the First Circuit, which held on March 13, 2017, that the company’s delivery drivers may be eligible for up to $10 million in overtime pay, because the lack of a comma in the statute regarding exemptions from the state’s wage and hour law rendered the scope of the exemption ambiguous.

Grammarians have long disputed whether writers should include a comma before the final item in a list — the so-called “serial” or “Oxford” comma. Opponents of the serial comma consider it superfluous. Supporters argue that the serial comma is necessary to eliminate potential ambiguity, as in the example, “I’d like to thank my parents, Ayn Rand and God.” Are Ayn Rand and God the writer’s parents, or are they being thanked in addition to his or her parents? Without the serial comma, it is impossible to know.

The article is based on the author's recent Wage & Hour Defense Blog post.