Serial Comma Yes!

At least, with regards to labor disputes in the state of Maine, where delivery drivers for Oakhurst Dairies have won their case for overtime pay, based on the absence of a serial comma in part of the state’s overtime law.

The crucial clause, detailing activities that are exempt from overtime:

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.

The dairy company maintained that “distribution” was a separate exempt activity; the drivers maintained that the exempt activity in question was “packaging for shipment or distribution,” and didn’t refer to their job at all.  The court agreed with the drivers.

Style note: Also cited by the drivers (or their lawyers, at any rate) was the fact that all of the preceding exempt activities listed are gerunds – “canning” and so on – while “distribution” is a noun.  Under the principle that parallel ideas require parallel constructions, this implies that “distribution” is not meant to be a noun in parallel with the ones preceding it, but part of the prepositional phrase “for shipment or distribution.”

These things do matter, folks.

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