The Fair Labor Standards Act addresses the topics of using trainees and training existing employees. Both concepts are rule driven.
Employers can use trainees in the workplace. The FLSA’s concern is the trainees do not replace regular paid employees. Accordingly, the employer providing the training must derive no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and its operations may actually be impeded.
There are a couple of other rules. First, the training must be similar to that which would be given at a vocational school. Second, the trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the completion of the training.
In addition to engaging trainees, employers also have compelling reasons to continuously train their existing employees. As a general rule, employers must pay employees for time spent attending training programs.
However, training time is not compensable if four factors are met. It is difficult to satisfy all four of them. First, the attendance must be voluntary. If employers give the impression that an employee must attend training or risk losing her job, or be subject to disciplinary action, attendance will not be considered voluntary.
Second, if the program does not directly relate to the employee’s job, the time spent is not compensable. However, if the training is intended to help the employee perform her job better, then it is directly related to her job and must be compensated.
In order for the training time to be unpaid, two other requirements must be met. First, the attendance must be outside of the employee’s regular working time. Second, the employee cannot perform any regular work during the training program.