Attorneys for a mentally disabled South Carolina man have filed a lawsuit against his employers, claiming that the owner and a manager beat him, called him racial slurs and forced him to work long hours for little to no pay.
According to the Post and Courier, two attorneys—Mullins McLeod and David Aylor—representing Christopher Smith claim that J&J Cafeteria owner Ernest J. Edwards and his brother, manager Bobby Paul Edwards, repeatedly abused Smith inside the Conway, S.C., restaurant. The brothers have been charged with 14 counts, including false imprisonment, discrimination and unfair labor practices, the newspaper reports.
Bobby Edwards, 50, has been in custody since his arrest Nov. 19, 2014, in a separate case on charges of second-degree assault and battery.
The Post and Courier reports that Smith was rescued from the job in October 2014 after the South Carolina Department of Social Services, in response to a tip from someone concerned about Smith's safety, responded with Conway police, and state social workers found several scars on Smith's back.
Smith had worked at the restaurant for 23 years and lived in a cockroach-infested apartment owned by the brothers that his attorneys called "subhuman." Smith's attorneys told the newspaper that the physical abuse began in 2010 after Bobby Edwards began managing the restaurant and became worse after Smith complained to Ernest Edwards.
According to his lawyers, Smith suffered verbal abuse and minimal wages throughout his 23-year tenure, reportedly being paid $2,842 a year even though he worked 18 hours a day, six days a week.
He was routinely taken into a walk-in freezer where he was beaten 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," the attorneys told the Post and Courier. The attorneys also noted that they believe the assaults took place because Smith is black.
"This lawsuit cannot change the past," Aylor told the Post and Courier, "but hopefully it will bring about positive change in the future."
According to the lawsuit, Smith never told anyone about the abuse because he was afraid that he would be beaten worse or killed.
A telephone message left by the Post and Courier on Monday for the restaurant's owner was not immediately returned.
Read more at the Post and Courier.