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How an Oxford Comma Won $5 Million for Truck Drivers

Published October 14, 2019 by Employment and Commerce Law Group
Oxford Comma Helps Drivers Win Overtime Pay Dispute

Small technicalities can sometimes transform the outcome of legal cases. That just happened to a group of truck drivers in Maine.

A group of delivery drivers recently won $5 million for unpaid overtime after a judge ruled that a small grammatical error — a missing Oxford comma— made the state’s labor laws ambiguous. The Oxford comma is the comma used to separate the second to last item in lists of three or more things (e.g., milk, eggs, and bread versus milk, eggs, and bread).

In the truck drivers’ case, the law said that certain activities, including “packing for shipment or distribution” were exempt from overtime pay. There is no comma between the words “packing for shipment” and “or distribution,” so the drivers claimed the law defined packing and distributing as a single act. Since the drivers didn’t pack anything, they successfully argued they could not be exempt from overtime pay.

Exempt Vs. Non-Exempt Workers

Under federal law, employers don’t usually have to pay overtime to exempt employees. These are often known as the “white-collar workers” with jobs outlined in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

On the other hand, the law insists that employers must pay overtime to non-exempt employees. If they fail to do so, employees can file complaints and, if necessary, overtime lawsuits. A case might also be filed when an employer wrongly classifies an employee as exempt and it can be shown that they intentionally tried to avoid paying overtime.

Unpaid Overtime Settlements

Workers can obtain damages in overtime settlements to recover money such as unpaid wages, interest and attorney’s fees. However, winning these cases can be difficult because overtime settlements often need approval from the Department of Labor to be binding and enforceable.

If you believe that an employer has not paid you the overtime you are entitled to, it’s important to contact an experienced employment law attorney to evaluate your case.

Can I Sue My Employer for Not Paying Me Correctly?

When an employer fails to pay you incorrectly, you might be able to sue them. State and federal labor laws were put in place to protect workers’ rights. However, the laws have complicated requirements, so depending on your job, your employer might not be required to pay you overtime.

Sometimes, employees may be missing out on more than just overtime pay. In Tennessee, the state follows the federal standard for minimum wage and overtime requirements. But the state also has labor laws that protect workers from other types of discrimination or losses of fringe benefits. It’s not always clear if you’re being denied other compensation, but a skilled employment looker can assess your case to determine if you’re being shortchanged in other ways.

How the Employment and Commerce Law Group Can Help Me

To prevail in an unpaid overtime lawsuit, you need an experienced lawyer who pays attention to all the facts relevant to your case — and who can get the evidence to prove that you were denied the pay that you deserve.

At the Employment and Commerce Law Group, our detail-oriented attorneys have the knowledge, experience, and resources to help fight for the wages you are owed. Let our wage and hour dispute lawyers join the fight for your rights.

Call us today at (615) 258-7134 or fill out an online contact form for a free case evaluation.

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