Modern slavery: white manager beats black employee for years, forces him to work without pay

This undated photo provided by the J. Reuben Long Detention Center in Horry County, North Carolina shows Bobby Paul Edwards (Photo: CNN)

John Christopher Smith, a black man with intellectual disabilities was forced to work for years without pay at a cafeteria in Conway, South California.

Smith worked over 100 hours every week and was subjected to verbal and physical abuse.

His manager, Bobby Edwards pleaded guilty to forced labour in 2018 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Smith was supposed to receive close to US $273,000 in restitution, but an appellate court ruled in April that was amount was too low. Now he will receive more than double that amount, closer to $546,000 from the manager.

According to CNN, Smith endured years of abuse at the hands of Edwards.

He started working at the cafeteria as a part-time dishwasher when he was just 12-years-old. During his first 19 years of employment there, when the restaurant was managed by other members of Edwards’ family Smith, he was paid.

But when Edwards took over management in 2009, Smith was moved into an apartment next to the restaurant and forced to work more than 100 hours every week without pay.

Smith was subjected to all types of abuse while working for Edwards (Photo: WPDE)

According to the ruling, Edwards once dipped metal tongs into grease and pressed them into Smith’s neck when Smith failed to quickly restock the buffet with fried chicken. Edwards also whipped Smith with his belt, punched him and beat him with kitchen pans, leaving Smith “physically and psychologically scarred,” the ruling said.

Edwards was able to carry out his forced labour by taking advantage of Jack’s intellectual disability and keeping Jack isolated from his family, threatening to have him arrested, and verbally abusing him, the ruling said.

In 2017, Smith told WPDE that he feared what would happen to him if he tried to leave especially because he had nowhere to go.

“I wanted to get out of there a long time ago. But I didn’t have nobody I could go to,” he told the outlet. “I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t see none of my family.”

The ruling says an employee’s relative alerted authorities of the abuse in 2014, and the South Carolina Department of Social Services removed Smith from the restaurant that year.