Nearly 800 employers violated federal law while paying workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage over five years, but just three faced fines, a senator has learned.

In all, between 2003 and 2008 over 18,000 workers with disabilities nationally were denied nearly $5 million in wages.

Under federal law employers are allowed to pay people with disabilities less than minimum wage so-long as they receive government approval. Data requested by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, from the Department of Labor shows companies that violated labor laws while approved to pay the low wages faced shockingly little recourse.

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Labor Department officials say that 635 of the 797 violations found were discovered in employers’ own “self audits” and the department had no way to prove the allegations in court. Other cases involved small employers for whom fines may not have been appropriate recourse.

Most employers who were not fined were still ordered to provide back pay.

Harkin is currently investigating the law that allows employers to offer low pay to people with disabilities and expects to propose reforms in the coming months, reports the Des Moines Register. To read more click here.