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Grammatical Errors Can Be Costly in Contracts

When is a comma not just a matter of punctuation? When a missing comma in a law allows employees to gain overtime pay.

Pursuant to Maine law, employees are exempt from overtime pay if their jobs involve the “canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of” certain food products. Drivers for a milk distributor argued that they should get overtime because they did not do any packaging, while the employer argued that the drivers were involved in the distribution of the products and thus were exempt from getting overtime pay. A federal court recently decided that the absence of a comma after the word “shipment” made the wording of the law ambiguous enough to rule in favor of the employees’ argument. As this milk distribution company learned the hard way, a failure to comply with overtime laws or regulations invites compensation disputes, and possibly litigation, resulting in a big expense for businesses; the judge’s decision could cost the company an estimated $10 million.

The lawyers at Leonard Sciolla have assisted clients with a variety of employment matters, including legal compliance issues. Call partners John Leonard or Paul Schultz at (215) 567-1530 or (856) 273-6679.


Published April 4, 2017

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