Court Says That Black Man Enslaved by White Restaurant Manager Should Be Awarded More Than Half a Million Dollars

A Black man with intellectual disabilities who was enslaved for five years at a restaurant in Conway, S.C., should be awarded double the amount of restitution from the White man now imprisoned for the crime, according to a recent court ruling.

As part of his 2019 guilty plea to a forced labor charge, Bobby Paul Edwards, 56, was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered by a court to pay back John Christopher Smith $273,000 in unpaid wages and overtime compensation at J&J Cafeteria.

The Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled on April 21 that the previous amount decided by a district court “had erred” in not accounting for federal labor laws entitling him to $546,000, or double the amount he was owed from his imprisonment between 2009 and 2014. Through physical violence, threats and intimidation, Edwards coerced Smith, 43, into working more than 100 hours per week without pay, The Washington Post reported.

The appellate court sent the ruling back to the district court to recalculate Smith’s award based on the delay in getting his payment under federal labor laws.

“When an employer fails to pay those amounts (regular and overtime pay), the employee suffers losses, which includes the loss of the use of that money during the period of delay,” the court argued in its filing.

Edwards’s public defender didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the latest ruling.

Smith started washing dishes and busing tables at J&J Cafeteria in 1990, when he was just 12 years old. He had loved his full-time employment there when the business was operated by Edwards’s relatives, according to court documents.

But when Edwards took over managing the restaurant in September 2009, paid wages and decent treatment would soon be nonexistent.

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Source: Washington Post

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