“When an employer fails to pay those amounts, the employee suffers losses, which includes the loss of the use of that money during the period of delay,” the court said in the April ruling.
Smith began working at the cafeteria as a dishwasher and busboy in 1990 when he was 12 years old and the business was being run by Edwards’ relatives, according to court records.
But in September 2009, during Smith’s 19th year on the job, Edwards took over as the restaurant’s manager and years of abuse soon followed.
According to court documents, Edwards immediately took advantage of Smith’s mild cognitive disability and moved him into a roach-infested apartment that he owned, keeping the man isolated from his family, physically abusing him and threatening to have him arrested.
In a shocking example of brutality, Edwards once dipped metal tongs into hot grease and pressed them into Smith’s neck after he supposedly failed to timely deliver fried chicken to the buffet, according to court records.
Smith said he felt like a prisoner.
“Most of the time I felt unsafe, like Bobby could kill me if he wanted,” Smith said, according to court records. “I wanted to get out of that place so bad but couldn’t think about how I could without being hurt.”
Fellow employees feared Edwards, which allowed the abuse to continue until October 2014 when the relative of another employee called authorities.
Smith was placed into Adult Protective Services, and Edwards was charged with second-degree assault and “attempt to establish peonage, slavery, involuntary servitude or human trafficking.”
“For stealing his victim’s freedom and wages, Mr. Edwards has earned every day of his sentence,” Sherri A. Lydon, U.S. attorney for the District of South Carolina, said in 2019. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office will not tolerate forced or exploitative labor in South Carolina, and we are grateful to the watchful citizen and our partners in law enforcement who put a stop to this particularly cruel violence.”