Jail time, restitution ordered for employer who abused intellectually disabled employee
An employee described as "intellectually disabled" and having been "enslaved" has been awarded $546,000 in unpaid wages, overtime and restitution from his former employer who was also sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2019 for the abuse of his long-term worker.
John Christopher "Jack" Smith, 43. started working at the family-owned J&J Cafeteria in Conway. South Carolina at age 12 in 1990, when he began busing tables and washing dishes. After dropping out of high school, Smith began working there full-time.
For the first 19 years of his employment, when the restaurant was owned and managed by different members of the Edwards family, Smith was always paid for his labor. Things changed for the worse when the defendant Bobby Paul Edwards took over management of the family business, and Smith did not receive any wages for work performed from 2009 through 2014.
The Justice Department states Edwards verbally and physically abused Smith: On one occasion, Edwards, "dipped metal tongs into hot grease and burned the victim’s neck" for failing to deliver fried chicken to the buffet quickly. The Justice Department also stated he called Smith racist names to belittle and demean him.
Edwards was previously ordered to pay Smith $273,000, covering minimum wages and overtime compensation Smith was previously denied. However, federal prosecutors appealed this decision, asserting that Smith should be owed more money because of the delay in receiving pay in accordance with the federal labor law known as the Fair Labor Standards Act (the FLSA).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit agreed with the government, and ruled that Smith should be awarded additional restitution because he was qualified for double the pay in addition to the overtime he was owed.
The case was sent back to district court by the appellate court for a determination on how much Edwards owed Smith. That amount has now been determined to be $546,000.
For an overview of the FLSA, please watch this brief video: