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Court: South Carolina Black man made to work without pay entitled to $546K

The defendant used violence and other coercive means to make the victim work more than 100 hours a week for no pay between 2009 and 2014, court records show.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

RICHMOND, Va. — A federal appeals court has ruled that a Black man with intellectual disabilities who was forced to work more than 100 hours a week without pay in a South Carolina restaurant is entitled to double the amount of restitution a judge originally ordered his former manager to pay. 

A federal judge ordered Bobby Edwards to pay John Christopher Smith nearly $273,000 in restitution for unpaid wages and overtime over a five-year period. But the Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last month the judge should have doubled that amount, to about $546,000, by including liquidated damages. 

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According to court records, between 2009 and 2014, the defendant used violence and other coercive means to make the victim work more than 100 hours a week for no pay at a restaurant managed by the defendant in Conway, South Carolina. 

The victim was also physically and emotionally abused when they failed to work fast enough or made a mistake. The defendant beat the victim with a belt, fists, and pots and pans. On one occasion, he dipped metal tongs into hot grease and burned the victim’s neck. He also used racial slurs. 

Edwards pleaded guilty to forced labor and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

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The following video is from a previous story on June 6, 2018.