(CNN) — A South Carolina man who was forced to work more than 100 hours a week for years without pay and who was subjected to labor, verbal and physical abuse was to receive close to $ 273,000 in severance pay after his former manager left. found guilty.
However, that initial amount was too low, a Court of Appeal ruled in April this year. The man should have received more than double that amount – about $ 546,000 – from the manager based on federal labor laws, according to the ruling.
John Christopher Smith was forced to work unpaid at a Conway coffee shop for years. His manager, Bobby Edwards, pleaded guilty to forced labor in 2018 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his abuse of Smith, a black man who has an intellectual disability.
So a U.S. District Court judge in 2019 ordered Edwards, a white, to pay Smith about $ 273,000 in severance, representing Smith’s unpaid wages and overtime.
Lack of compensation for damages after labor abuses
But this court “erred in not including compensation for damages” in the award, a provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act that would double the amount of restitution Smith received, according to the April ruling of the Court of Justice. Appeals of the 4th United States Circuit based in Richmond, Virginia.
The provision on damages of the Fair Labor Standards Law establishes that, if not paying a worker’s salary on time damages the “minimum standard of living” of that worker, he should be given double that amount, it decided the Supreme Court in 1945.
“When an employer does not pay those amounts, the worker suffers losses, which include the loss of the use of that money during the delay period,” said the Federal Court of Appeals.
Now, the District Court will calculate the exact amount Smith is owed.
CNN contacted the US Attorney’s Office in South Carolina and the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, which ordered the first payment of compensation, for comment.
Smith endured years of abuse
Smith began working in the cafeteria as a part-time dishwasher when he was 12, according to the recent court ruling. His first 19 years of employment there, when the restaurant was run by other members of the Edwards family, were paid.
However, when Edwards took over the restaurant in 2009, Smith was transferred to an apartment next to the restaurant and forced to work more than 100 hours a week without pay, according to the ruling.
“Edwards imposed this forced labor, took advantage of John Smith’s intellectual disability and kept him isolated from his family, in addition to threatening to have him arrested, and verbally abusing him,” says the sentence.
Fear and shock
Smith was afraid of Edwards, who once dipped metal tongs into grease and stabbed his neck when he was not quickly replacing fried chicken at the buffet, the ruling says.
On the other hand, Edwards also hit Smith with his belt, punched him and hit him with kitchen pans, which left him “with physical and psychological marks,” according to the sentence.
On this, Smith feared what might happen if he tried to escape, he told CNN affiliate WPDE in 2017.
I wanted to get out of there a long time ago. But I had no one to turn to, ”he told WPDE. I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t see anyone in my family.
“We are talking about slavery”
The ruling says a family member of the worker alerted authorities to the abuse in 2014, and the South Carolina Department of Social Services removed Smith from the restaurant that year.
“We are talking about slavery here,” said Abdullah Mustafa, who was then president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
CNN reached out to Conway’s section of the South Carolina NAACP for comment.
CNN’s Faith Karimi contributed to this report.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism