Employers often establish internship programs as a way to provide practical work experience for beginners in an occupation or profession. Internships can be paid or unpaid; however, unpaid internships are subject to stringent labor guidelines. Recently, a number of employers have been subject to substantial liability for hiring unpaid interns to provide the same or similar services as paid employees. The courts in those cases have emphasized that for an unpaid internship to be lawful, the following practices must be followed by the employer:
- The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, must be similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
- The internship experience must be for the benefit of the intern;
- The intern must not displace regular employees, but instead work under close supervision of existing staff;
- The employer that provides the training must not derive immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;
- The intern must not necessarily be entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
- The employer and the intern must understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.