• Today
    April 06

  • 02:51 AM

Manager to pay for forced labour


Added 09 November 2019


SOUTH CAROLINA – John Christopher Smith suffered in silence for years as his manager at a South Carolina restaurant physically abused him and forced him to work more than 100 hours a week without pay, federal officials say.

That manager, Bobby Paul Edwards, 54, was sentenced to ten years in prison this week and ordered to pay him US$272 952.96 in restitution, the Justice Department said in a statement Thursday.

Edwards pleaded guilty in June last year to one count of forced labour for coercing Smith to work extensive hours with no pay. The white manager used violence, threats and intimidation on the African-American employee at the restaurant in Conway, according to the Justice Department.

When he managed the restaurant between 2009 and 2014, Edwards hurled racial epithets at the victim, beat him with a belt, and hit him with pots and pans, federal officials said.

Smith had intellectual disabilities, and was afraid of losing his job. At times, Edwards would burn his bare neck with hot tongs to make him work faster, federal authorities said.

“It is almost inconceivable that instances of forced labour endure in this country to this day – a century and a half after the Emancipation Proclamation,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil Rights Division.

“The Department of Justice will continue to investigate, prosecute, and convict human traffickers involved in forced labour, seeking justice on behalf of their victims.”

In a 2017 interview, Smith said Edwards physically abused him for years and forced him to live in a room behind the restaurant, keeping him away from his relatives. When Smith’s family came to the restaurant, the manager would force him to stay in the kitchen, he said.

“I wanted to get out of there a long time ago. But I didn’t have nobody I could go to,” he said. “I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t see none of my family.”
Smith said he started busing tables and washing dishes at the restaurant when he was 12, but the incidents started when Edwards took over as manager.

In October 2014, a frequent customer noticed the scars on his body when he was putting food down and called authorities, who removed Smith from the restaurant, the affiliate said. The victim is about 40 years now. (CNN)


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