Ministerial exception inapplicable to FLSA suit by Mashgiach against catering firm

Howard Friedman

Altman v. Sterling Caterers, (SD FL, July 17, 2012), is a suit alleging violations of the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) brought by a masgiach (kosher standards supervisor) against the catering firm for whom he works. Plaintiff Mauricio Altman supervises the food served by the catering company at the Jewish Community Center in Davie, Florida. The court, in a decision by a federal magistrate judge, rejected defendants’ claim that the lawsuit should be dismissed under the ministerial exemption (ministerial exception) doctrine. It held that without deciding whether or not the ministerial exception applies to suits under the FLSA, the defendant, a commercial catering firm, would not qualify for the exemption because it is not a religious institution:

As a for-profit catering company providing both kosher and non-kosher food, Sterling is more akin to a restaurant serving special food to customers than a religious institution.