Restaurant Manager Forced a Black Man to Work Without Pay – Now He Owes Him More Than $500,000
100 hours each week. No pay. A South Carolina man was forced to work under unlawful conditions and got subjected to verbal and physical abuse over the years. Now he is set to receive over $500,000 in restitution after his manager pled guilty. Christopher Smith (Black) brought his wage and hour dispute lawsuit to court. In doing so, he recounted his experience working for manager Bobby Edwards (White).
Smith Endured Countless Abuse in The Workplace
Smith started out working at the cafeteria as a part-time dishwasher when he was just 12 years old. Edwards and his family operated the establishment. Each person got paid fairly and on time. But, nineteen years had gone by for Smith, and still – no paycheck.
In 2009, when Smith moved into a new apartment next to the restaurant, he found the working conditions worsened. From that moment, he was on the clock for 100 hours weekly. In South Carolina, state laws require employers to pay their staff time and a half over 40 hours.
Edwards had taken that news and used it to continue leveraging an unfair employee/employer relationship. According to CNN, the corrupt owner took advantage of Smith’s intellectual disability and isolated him from his family by threatening to have him arrested, among other verbal abuse.
Threats and Fear Held Him Back from Acting
Employment attorneys discovered Edwards was also physically abusive. Smith recounts how he dipped metal tongs into grease, pressed them into his neck, and reprimanded him for not restocking the buffet fast enough. There were instances where he had been whipped by a belt, punched, and beaten with kitchen pans. In court, the damages not only had to include unpaid pages but also account for his pain and suffering as well.
Smith feared for his life. Just thinking about what might happen if he tried to escape was enough to hold him back. “I wanted to get out of there a long time ago. But I didn’t have nobody I could go to,” he said to a CNN affiliate in 2017. “I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t see none of my family.”
The Original Settlement Was Close to $273,000
At first, Smith expected to receive $273,000 in restitution, but his legal counsel found the initial amount was too low. The court failed to account for liquidated damages, which is a provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that doubles the amount of restitution per a Supreme Court ruling in 1945. If an employer fails to pay wages on time and significantly impacts an employee’s quality of life, the original settlement must be twice the amount.
In the end, attorneys advocated for their client to receive around $546,000 from unpaid wages, abuse, and federal labor law violations.
Across the U.S., many workers like Smith are hesitant to report forms of workplace discrimination, harassment, or unpaid wages. At Mann & Elias, our Los Angeles workplace lawyer will safeguard you from further adverse treatments and help you pursue a winning case to hold him/her accountable. No one should have to endure years of abuse like Smith did.