Black restaurant worker beaten, treated like slave, federal lawsuit says

Thanksgiving is next week, but I read news that makes me give thanks for my pleasant life every day.

J&J Cafeteria in Conway, S.C. (Image from Google Streetview, taken in 2013)

A federal lawsuit alleges a black, mentally disabled restaurant worker in South Carolina was forced into "slavery."

Lawsuits typically contain just one side of the story, but attorneys for Christopher Smith allege their client worked almost 120 hours a week for $2,842 in yearly wages. The math indicates Smith was paid less than 50 cents an hour at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, S.C.

Two brothers, owner Ernest J. Edwards and manager Bobby Paul Edwards, are accused of forcing Smith to work 18-hour days for six days of the week and 11 hours on Sunday.

Smith worked at the restaurant for 23 years, but the physical and emotional abuse began in 2010 when Bobby Edwards started managing the restaurant and continued after complaints to Ernest Edwards, attorneys said.

The worker was allegedly "hit with a frying pan, burned with grease-covered tongs, and beaten with butcher knives, belt buckles and fists 'while being called the N-word repeatedly,'" according to a Post and Courier article .

Some assaults occurred in a walk-in freezer as Smith screamed for his life, the attorneys say.

Bobby Paul Edwards is criminally charged with beating a restaurant worker. (Image from Horry County Jail)

Smith was housed in "a nearby cockroach-infested apartment owned by the business." He was "rescued" by social workers on Oct. 10, 2014. Scars were found on his back.

The seafood restaurant has not updated its Facebook page since Nov. 14, 2014. Bobby Edwards was arrested on second-degree assault and battery charges five days later. That criminal case is still pending.

Reviews on Yelp indicate the business was open as recently as July, but most commenters aren't talking about the food.

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