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Employment and Labor Law: A Beginner’s Guide

This post is co-authored by Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer, Legal Reference Librarians.

Continuing with our Beginner’s Guide series, we turn next to labor and employment law.  This area of the law has been prominent in the news over the past several months, particularly in light of the union stronghold of the Midwest, Michigan, becoming a right to work state with the passage of the Workplace Fairness and Equity Act.  Further, the United States Supreme Court recently heard arguments in Vance v. Ball State University, which may redefine who is a “supervisor” under the purview of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Treatises/Handbooks/Dictionaries

Contrary to its relatively short title, labor and employment law encompasses many different topics, including harassment, discrimination, privacy, compensation, and unionization, among many others.  As such, we have organized these helpful secondary sources according to topic.

1. For True Beginners

2. For Generalists

3. For Those Interested in Labor-Specific Issues

4. For Those Interested in Discrimination and Harrassment-Related Laws

5. For Those Intereseted in Disability-Related Laws

6. For Those Interested in Dismissal-Related Laws

7. For Those Interested in Privacy-Related Laws

8. For Those Interested in Compensation-Related Laws

If any one of these resources seems interesting, but you are unable to visit the Law Library of Congress, we suggest visiting the WorldCat catalog to find these, and other, useful resources in a library near you.

Woman working in a factory

War production worker at the Vilter [Manufacturing] Company making M5 and M7 guns for the U.S. Army, Milwaukee, Wis. Ex-housewife, age 49, now doing bench work on small gun parts. Son [is] Second L[ieutenan]t, Son-in-law, Capt[ain] in Army, Library of Congress of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Statutes/Regulations

Once you have used one of the secondary sources listed above to ground you in the concepts of this area of the law, you may be interested in reviewing the statutes and regulations that are the foundation of United States labor and employment law.  As we have noted in past Beginner’s Guides, free digital copies of federal statutes, as printed in the United States Code, and federal regulations, as printed in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), can be found at the Government Printing Office’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) website.

Most federal statutes regarding employment and labor law can be found in Titles 29 and 42 of the United States Code, for example:

  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621, et seq.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, et seq.
  • Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1161, et seq.
  • Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)
  • Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 201, et seq.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601, et seq.
  • National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 141, et seq.
  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701, et seq.
  • Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2101, et seq.

Most federal regulations regarding employment and labor law can be found in Titles 20 and 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations.  However, a researcher should keep in mind that several of the federal departments and agencies that deal with labor and employment law issues also issue agency-specific rules, guidance, and administrative rulings.  These rulings can often be found on department and agency websites, which will be discussed in our next section.

Other Online Resources

In the last several years, an increasing amount of information regarding labor and employment law has been put online, particularly on the websites for the departments and agencies that administrate these federal statutes.  Some websites of interest are:

For up-to-the-minute updates regarding labor and employment law, however, you might consider visiting a third-party blog. Although there are a multitude of helpful websites, some leaders in the field include:

We wish you the best of luck with your research regarding labor and employment law.  As always, feel free to contact the Law Library of Congress if you have any questions.

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