KEY POINTS

  • Edwards pleaded guilty in 2019 of enslaving Smith
  • He used to hit Smith with a belt, kitchen pans
  • Court ordered Edwards to pay Smith more than $546,000 in restitution

A Black worker forced to work over 100 hours a week without pay by a white restaurant manager in South Carolina is entitled to $546,000 in restitution, a U.S. federal court ruled. John Christopher Smith suffered verbal and physical abuse at the hands of 56-year-old Bobby Paul Edwards who ran the restaurant in Conway.

Edwards, sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2019 for forced labor, was initially ordered to pay Smith $273,000 in restitution, but the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled that the District Court for the District of South Carolina did not take into consideration federal labor laws at the time of the initial decision.

Edwards has pleaded guilty to enslaving Smith, 43, for five years up to 2014 at J & J Cafeteria.

Restaurants and bars saw big gains in August US retail sales data as they reopened following closures to stop Covid-19 Restaurants and bars saw big gains in August US retail sales data as they reopened following closures to stop Covid-19 Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / SPENCER PLATT

"Minimum wages and overtime compensation must be paid on a current basis as work is done, such that an employee receives the prescribed compensation without delay. When an employer fails to pay those amounts, the employee suffers losses, which includes the loss of the use of that money during the period of delay," the Court of Appeals stated.

According to the recent ruling cited by CNN, Smith, who has an intellectual disability, started working at the restaurant in 1990 as a part-time dishwasher when he was 12. In his first 19 years of employment there, he was "always paid for his labor" till the time Edwards took over in September 2009.

It further said that once Edwards took over the restaurant, Smith was moved into an apartment close to the cafeteria and forced to work more than 100 hours every week without pay and no offs.

The Court wrote in the ruling that Edwards once dipped metal tongs into grease and pressed them into Smith's neck as a punishment for failing to quickly restock the buffet with fried chicken. Smith was also punched, beaten up with kitchen pans, and hit with a belt. The former restaurant owner also threatened Smith with arrest, verbal abuse, and physical abuse, leaving him "physically and psychologically scarred."

In 2017, speaking to CNN affiliate WPDE, Smith said that feared escaping from Edwards. He said he “wanted to get out of there a long time ago but he didn't have nobody to go to.” The court’s ruling said an employee's relative informed authorities of the abuse suffered by Smith in 2014, and the South Carolina Department of Social Services rescued him from the restaurant that year.