Employers can offer unpaid training programs, such as internship programs under specific guidelines, including close staff supervision, benefit to the intern and educational value. Employers may not offer unpaid training that provides an immediate advantage to the business, according to an April 2013 article in Forbes.
The United States Department of Labor outlines six guidelines for unpaid internships and training programs that all businesses must follow. The first of these is that the job must offer similar training that "would be given in an educational environment." If the training does not contain some educational value, it is illegal.
Internships and unpaid training programs must benefit interns or trainees more than they benefit the company. Companies may not use unpaid training to replace regular employees or gain some advantage. Trainees must be directly supervised by regular staff members and may sometimes even impede business operations.
Employers must also make the terms of the internship clear. Both parties must understand that there is no compensation involved in the job.
However, businesses do not have to offer jobs at the end of an unpaid training program. If all of these criteria are met, the employer may bypass minimum wage and overtime pay laws and offer an unpaid internship.