John Christopher Smith, from South Carolina, started working at a cafeteria as a part-time dishwasher when he was 12. His first 19 years of employment there, when other members of Bobby Edwards’ family managed the restaurant, were paid. When Edwards took over management of the cafeteria, things changed.
In 2009, when Edwards took over the restaurant, Smith was moved into an apartment next to the restaurant and forced to work more than 100 hours every week without pay. In addition to not getting paid, Smith endured physical and verbal abuse from his employer. Smith feared Edwards but also feared what might happen if he tried to escape.
Smith was supposed to receive close to $273,000 in restitution after Edwards pleaded guilty to forced labor in 2018. However that initial amount was too low, an appellate court ruled in April. The court “erred in failing to include liquidated damages” in the restitution, a provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act that would’ve doubled the amount (closer to $546,000) of restitution Smith received.
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