Modern Slavery

Judge rules South Carolina restaurant manager owes more than $500K to worker

In 2019, Edwards pleaded guilty to not paying Smith any wages between 2009 and 2014

Bobby Paul Edwards (left) is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence for enslaving John Christopher Smith (right) from 2009 to 2014 at a South Carolina restaurant

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INVESTIGATIVE PRESS GROUP

A judge ruled that a former South Carolina restaurant manager who forced a Black man with intellectual disabilities to work more than 100 hours a week without pay, owes the former employee more than $500,000. According to The Post and Courier, Bobby Paul Edwards, 56, is serving a 10-year prison sentence for forcing John Christopher Smith, 43, to work at J&J Cafeteria without pay.

Edwards was originally ordered to pay Smith $273,000, which covered minimum wages and overtime compensation he was previously denied, according to court documents.

Federal prosecutors appealed this decision, arguing that Smith should be owed more money because of the delay in receiving pay, which is in line with federal labor laws, the Post and Courier reported.

An appeals court agreed, and ruled last month that Smith should be awarded additional restitution because of federal labor laws that qualify him for double the pay and overtime he was owed, according to the Post and Courier.

The case was sent back to district court for a decision on how much Edwards owes Smith, according to the Post and Courier.

In 2019, Edwards pleaded guilty to not paying Smith any wages between 2009 and 2014, according to the Post and Courier. At that time, Edwards managed the restaurant.

Smith worked at the restaurant since 1990, when he started washing dishes and busing tables at the age of 12.

Additionally authorities said Edwards abused Smith, who worked as a buffet cook, when Edwards started managing the restaurant in 2009, the Post and Courier reported.

The court wrote that Edwards “effected this forced labor” by taking advantage of Smith’s intellectual disability and keeping him isolated from his family, threatening to have him arrested and verbally abusing him.

Additionally, the court wrote that Edwards physically abused Smith, including pressing hot metal tongs into his neck, whipping him with his belt, beating him with kitchen pans and punching him.

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