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Whoever authored a law in Maine about food distribution and overtime pay obvious had not read Eats, Shoots & Leaves. If they had, it would have saved a lawsuit and a whole lot of money.

Drivers sued over the confusion caused by the lack of a comma that implied they were entitled to overtime pay they were not being given. Workers were not entitled to overtime pay if their jobs involved

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.

Without a comma after “shipment” it isn’t clear whether it is one activity or two separate activities. The drivers won the case and the statute has since been revised with a slew of semi-colons!

the canning; processing; preserving; freezing; drying; marketing; storing; packing for shipment; or distributing of: (1) agricultural produce; (2) meat and fish products; and (3) perishable foods.

I bet every Oxford comma obsessed person out there is now ecstatically squeeing, yelling I told you so! and feeling a deep sense of satisfied justification.

I am not a fan of the Oxford comma, but I have to admit, this gives me pause. Not enough to make me change my ways, mind you, just enough to make me glad I don’t write anything in which the lack of an Oxford comma might cost $5 million!

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