The owners of a South Carolina restaurant are being accused of horrific treatment of a long-time employee. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a mentally disabled restaurant worker at J&J Cafeteria in Conway, South Carolina was reportedly forced to work 120 hours per week for 50 cents an hour.
Attorneys for the worker, Christopher Smith, are accusing brothers Ernest and Bobby Edwards of subjecting Smith to four years of emotional and physical abuse. According to The Post and Courier, Smith was allegedly forced to work 18-hour days for an annual wage of $2,842 and was burned with hot tongs, beaten with a frying pan, and hit with belt buckles, butcher knives, and fists. Attorneys claim Smith, who is African-American, was also "called the N-word repeatedly." While Smith worked for the restaurant for 23 years, the stated abuse did not begin until 50-year-old Bobby Edwards began managing the restaurant in 2010.
Much of the alleged physical abuse took place in the walk-in freezer, away from other employees and customers. Smith, who according to The Post and Courier "lived in a nearby cockroach-infested apartment owned by the business," was rescued in 2014 after the Department of Social Services and local police responded to a tip and found scars on the man's back. The civil suit includes 14 accusations including false imprisonment, unfair labor practices, and discrimination.
Although other restaurant managers have been accused of abusing their employees, this is one of the worst cases in recent years. This summer, the CEO of Restaurants Canada was accused of ignoring allegations of physical abuse happening at now shuttered Toronto restaurant Mildred Pierce. In March, French chef Yannick Alléno was also accused of physically abusing former employees, and in 2014, Andrey Dellos, owner of New York restaurant Betony, was sued by a former events manager for abusive conduct. While these cases were certainly shocking, they pale in comparison to the abuse allegedly suffered by Smith at the hands of his long-time employers.
The restaurant declined to comment on the lawsuit via telephone. View the court documents, below:
John Christopher Smith v. Ernest J Edwards, Bobby Edwards, Half Moon Foods