Law Offices of Louis Spitters

Missing Oxford comma crucial factor in payment dispute

When employers and employees fail to agree on important matters, the issue may be difficult to resolve without workers taking the matter to the courts. When the issue involves a payment dispute, it may be even more likely that the workers will fight for their right to fair compensation. California employees can seek professional assistance whenever they believe that their rights are being circumnavigated.

Recently, dairy truckers in a northeastern state came together to fight for their rights to overtime compensation. After reading the applicable laws regulating pay for overtime, they believed they were entitled to receive such monies. The dairy industry, however, refused to do so, claiming that it falls under agricultural exemptions. The drivers took their fight to the courts where they recently won their battle on appeal.

The appeals judges decided that due to the way the laws were written, the drivers were not, in fact, exempted after all. Incredibly, the ruling came down to the lack of a punctuation mark -- the Oxford comma. If a comma had been inserted into the listing of jobs that were included in the exemptions relating to farm related occupations, then the drivers would not have won their case.

The judges decided that the law must be more strictly interpreted in order to preserve the rights of workers to receive pay to which they may be entitled. This case was decided based upon the punctuation issue rather than on the merits of whether the drivers were owed the back pay worth an estimated $10 million. While this case is certainly unusual, the outcome was a positive one for the workers involved. California employees who also believe that they are being unfairly treated with respect to a payment dispute have every right to consult an employment law attorney for advice and support. 

Source:, "Truck Drivers Win Pay Dispute Because Of Missing Punctuation", Thomas Phippen, March 15, 2017

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