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South Carolina Restaurant Manager Owes Over $500K To Worker He Enslaved, Judge Rules

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  • A former South Carolina restaurant manager who forced a Black man with intellectual disabilities to work without pay for five years owes that individual $546,000 in restitution, according to a recent court ruling. 
  • In 2019, 56-year-old Bobby Paul Edwards was sentenced to 10 years in prison for a forced labor charge after using violence and other coercive means to compel 43-year-old John Christopher Smith to work over 100 hours a week.
  • At the time, Edwards was also ordered to pay Smith $273,000 in unpaid wages and overtime compensation, but federal prosecutors appealed that decision, arguing that Smith was owed more under federal labor laws because of the delay in receiving pay.
  • The appellate court agreed and has sent the ruling back to the district court to recalculate Smith’s award.

Appeals Court Ruling

A Black man with intellectual disabilities who was violently forced to work without pay at a South Carolina restaurant should be awarded double the amount of restitution he was ordered to receive from the former manager imprisoned for the crime, according to a recent court ruling.

In 2019, 56-year-old Bobby Paul Edwards was sentenced to 10 years in prison as part of his guilty plea to a forced labor charge in this case. He was charged after enslaving 43-year-old John Christopher Smith for five years, forcing him to work 100 hours a week at a South Carolina restaurant without days off.

As part of his sentencing, Edwards was also ordered to pay Smith $273,000 in unpaid wages and overtime compensation, but federal prosecutors appealed that decision, arguing that Smith should be owed more under federal labor laws because of the delay in receiving pay.

An appeals court agreed, saying that a district court had made a mistake by not accounting for federal labor laws, which means Smith is actually entitled to $546,000.

The appellate court has sent the ruling back to the district court to recalculate for a final decision. Still, while doubling Smith’s payment would be huge, it’ll never undo the years of pain Edwards put him through.

Smith Suffered Years of Abuse

Smith started washing dishes and bussing tables at J&J cafeteria in 1990 at the age of 12. According to court documents, he enjoyed his full time employment there when the business was operated by Edward’s relatives.

However, when Edward’s took over managing the business in September of 2009, paid wages and decent treatment began to disappear.

Edward’s allegedly moved Smith into a roach-infested apartment that Smith’s attorney described as “sub-human,” “deplorable” and “harmful to human health.” According to The Washington Post, he isolated Smith from his family, threatened to have him arrested, and called him racial slurs.

According to a statement from the Justice Department, he also physically and emotionally abused him over the years if he made mistakes or failed to work fast enough, whipping him with belts or kitchen pans and even punching him.

Once when Edwards thought Smith didn’t deliver fried chicken to the buffet as quickly as he demanded, he dipped metal tongs into hot grease and pressed them into Smith’s neck.

Smith said it felt like he was in prison with the threat of death. “Most of the time I felt unsafe, like Bobby could kill me if he wanted,” he also said, according to court documents. “I wanted to get out of that place so bad but couldn’t think about how I could without being hurt.”

Fellow employees who had heard or seen the abuse were reluctant to report it out of fear of Edward’s themselves.

A woman named Geneane Caine’s, whose daughter-in-law worked at the restaurant, finally helped put an end to the abuse when she reported Edwards to authorities in 2014. When she did that, Smith was immediately taken into Adult Protective Services.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (The Post Courier)

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Florida School Says Students Vaccinated Against COVID-19 Must Stay Home for 30 Days

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The school falsely claimed that people who have just been vaccinated risk “shedding” the coronavirus and could infect others.


Centner Academy Vaccination Policy

A private school in Florida is now requiring all students who get vaccinated against COVID-19 to quarantine for 30 days before returning to class.

According to the local Miami outlet WSVN, Centner Academy wrote a letter to parents last week describing COVID vaccines as “experimental” and citing anti-vaccine misinformation.

“If you are considering the vaccine for your Centner Academy student(s), we ask that you hold off until the Summer when there will be time for the potential transmission or shedding onto others to decrease,” the letter reportedly stated.

“Because of the potential impact on other students and our school community, vaccinated students will need to stay at home for 30 days post-vaccination for each dose and booster they receive and may return to school after 30 days as long as the student is healthy and symptom-free.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has debunked the false claim that those newly vaccinated against COVID-19 can “shed” the virus.

According to the agency’s COVID myths page, vaccine shedding “can only occur when a vaccine contains a weakened version of the virus,” but “none of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.”

In fact, early research has suggested that vaccinated people are less likely to spread the virus than unvaccinated people.

Beyond that, unvaccinated people are more likely to spread COVID in general because they are much more likely to get the virus than vaccinated people. According to recently published CDC data, as of August, unvaccinated people were six times more likely to get COVID than vaccinated people and 11 times more likely to die from the virus.

Centner Academy Continues Spread of Misinformation

In a statement to The Washington Post Monday, Centner Academy co-founder David Centner doubled down on the school’s new policy, which he described as a “precautionary measure” based on “numerous anecdotal cases that have been in circulation.”

“The school is not opining as to whether unexplained phenomena have a basis in fact, however we prefer to err on the side of caution when making decisions that impact the health of the school community,” he added.

The new rule echoes similar efforts Centner Academy has made that run counter to public health guidance and scientific knowledge.

In April, the school made headlines when its leadership told vaccinated school employees that they were not allowed to be in contact with any students “until more information is known” and encouraged employees to wait until summer to get the jab.

According to The New York Times, the following week, a math and science teacher allegedly told students not to hug their vaccinated parents for more than five seconds.

The outlet also reported that the school’s other co-founder, Leila Centner, discouraged masking, but when state health officials came for routine inspections, teachers said they were directed in a WhatsApp group to put masks on.

See what others are saying: (WSVN) (The Washington Post) (Business Insider)

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Katie Couric Says She Edited Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quote About Athletes Kneeling During National Anthem

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Couric said she omitted part of a 2016 interview in order to “protect” the justice.


Kate Couric Edited Quote From Justice Ginsburg

In her upcoming book, journalist Katie Couric admitted to editing a quote from Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in 2016 in order to “protect” Ginsberg from potential criticism. 

Couric interviewed the late justice for an article in Yahoo News. During their discussion, she asked Ginsburg about her thoughts on athletes like Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem to protest racial inequality.

“I think it’s really dumb of them,” Ginsburg is quoted saying in the piece. “Would I arrest them for doing it? No. I think it’s dumb and disrespectful. I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do, but I wouldn’t lock a person up for doing it. I would point out how ridiculous it seems to me to do such an act.”

According to The Daily Mail and The New York Post, which obtained advance copies of Couric’s book “Going There,” there was more to Ginsburg’s response. Couric wrote that she omitted a portion where Ginsburg said the form of protest showed a “contempt for a government that has made it possible for their parents and grandparents to live a decent life…Which they probably could not have lived in the places they came from.

Couric Says She Lost Sleep Making Choice

“As they became older they realize that this was youthful folly,” Ginsberg reportedly continued. “And that’s why education is important.

According to The Daily Mail, Couric wrote that the Supreme Court’s head of public affairs sent an email asking to remove comments about kneeling because Ginsburg had misspoken. Couric reportedly added that she felt a need to “protect” the justice, thinking she may not have understood the question. Couric reached out to her friend, New York Times reporter David Brooks, regarding the matter and he allegedly likewise believed she may have been confused by the subject. 

Couric also wrote that she was a “big RBG fan” and felt her comments were “unworthy of a crusader for equality.” Because she knew the remarks could land Ginsburg in hot water, she said she “lost a lot of sleep” and felt “conflicted” about whether or not to edit them out. 

Couric was trending on Twitter Wednesday and Thursday as people questioned the ethics behind her choice to ultimately cut part of the quote. Some thought the move showed a lack of journalistic integrity while others thought revealing the story now harmed Ginsburg’s legacy.

See what others are saying: (New York Post) (The Daily Mail) (Insider)

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Biden Administration Orders ICE To Halt Workplace Raids

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The Department of Homeland Security will now focus on targeting employers who exploit undocumented workers, instead of carrying out raids that dissuade those workers from reporting labor violations.


DHS Reverses Worksite Raid Policy

The Biden administration announced Tuesday that it was ordering Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to stop workplace raids.

The move marks a reversal from Trump administration policies that have been strongly criticized by immigration activists who argue the efforts created fear in immigrant communities and dissuaded them from reporting labor violations or exploitative employment practices.

In addition to stopping the raids, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a memo that the administration will refocus enforcement efforts to instead target “employers who exploit unauthorized workers, conduct illegal activities or impose unsafe working conditions.” 

Mayorkas added that the immigration agencies housed in DHS will have the next 60 days to identify harmful existing policies and come up with new ones that provide better deportation protections for workers who report their employers.

In the Tuesday memo, the secretary argued that shift of focus will “reduce the demand for illegal employment by delivering more severe consequences to exploitative employers” and “increase the willingness of workers to report violations of law by exploitative employers and cooperate in employment and labor standards investigation.”

Labor Market Implications

The new policy comes at a time when the U.S. is experiencing a critical labor shortage, including in many sectors that rely on immigrant labor.

Some companies that use undocumented workers pay them wages that are far below the market rate, which is not only exploitative but also undercuts competitors.

According to Mayorkas, the pivot to employer-based enforcement will help protect American businesses.

“By exploiting undocumented workers and paying them substandard wages, the unscrupulous employers create an unfair labor market,” he said in the memo. “They also unfairly drive down their costs and disadvantage their business competitors who abide by the law.”

It is currently unclear how effective the new efforts will be, but historical precedent does not paint an optimistic picture.

The Biden administration’s efforts closely mirror a similar move by the Obama administration, which attempted to reverse workplace raids authorized under President George W. Bush by targetting those who employ undocumented workers rather than the workers themselves.

That effort, however, still led to thousands of undocumented workers being fired.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (ABC News)

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