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Employment Law Research

The Research Process

When researching a new legal topic, it can be tempting to dive in a search Westlaw for cases. It is important, though, to step back and remember how the research process works. First, you should read the fact pattern, or if you are receiving the assignment in person, listen carefully. Consider which facts are relevant and which are irrelevant. Take note of what key terms and potential legal concepts emerge. Begin to brainstorm a research strategy - where will you search? For what? What do you expect to find? Second, you should consult secondary sources like practice guides or treatises. These will provide you with an overview of the area of law as well as citations to any relevant cases, statutes, and regulations. Third, you should access that primary law and read it. Make sure you understand how it is structured and what it means. Fourth, you should update the primary law using a citator. It is essential that you verify the currentness of any primary law you rely on. Fifth, you should analyze everything you've read. Does the law make sense? Have you learned any new terms of art that you should go back and add to your search? Have you learned anything that makes you see the facts or the legal issues in a new light? You should use this new knowledge to inform you as you start the process over again. You will know you are done when you begin to find the same few resources referring back to each other, and each new resource you find fails to reveal anything new.

Key Secondary Sources

While there are many excellent secondary sources out there, this guide will focus specifically on the ones that will be most valuable to you in a California-based employment law practice. The focus here is on practice guides, rather than academic treatises, because they provide more "no-nonsense" overviews of the topics they cover, and direct you to the leading cases and statutes on each point of law.

Rutter California Practice Guide: Employment Litigation by Ming W. Chin, et al., KFC 556 .A6 C35 (First Floor) 

The Rutter Group publishes a series of excellent California-specific practice guides. They are essentially lengthy outlines, and are structured to allow practitioners to get the information they need quickly. This specific resource may be referred to as the Rutter Employment Guide, the Rutter Guide on Employment, or the Pink Binders (for obvious reasons).

California Employment Law by Kirby Wilcox, KFC 556 .C35 (First Floor)

This four-volume treatise is an excellent resource for information on California-specific employment law. It is more in-depth than the Rutter Guide, but it is also wordier and more difficult to use, at times. You may hear this resource referred to simply as "Wilcox" or "Kirby Wilcox" after the author, a well-respected California employment attorney.

Advising California Employers and Employees by Bonnie Bogue, et al., KFC 556 .A933 (First Floor)

Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB) is a joint venture between the California State Bar and the University of California. It publishes a number of excellent California-focused practice guides. This title is designed to assist attorneys representing both employers and employees.

Labor and Employment in California by Bernadette O'Brien, et al., KFC 570 .E382 (First Floor)

This one-volume resource provides a quick overview of federal and California labor and employment laws. While it does not go as in-depth as the resources above, it is useful for practitioners who need to quickly compare federal and California law.

Employment Discrimination Law by Barbara Lindemann, et al., KF 3464 .L56 (Second Floor) 

This is the preeminent treatise on the topic of employment discrimination. Note that it is a general, rather than California-specific resource. You will likely not find in-depth discussion of California law in this treatise. Also note that it contains a separate supplement, rather than being a loose-leaf resource like the other three listed here. That means you must find the relevant section in the main text and consult that section in the supplement separately to see what (if anything) has been updated.

Workplace Harassment Law by Barbara Lindemann & David Kadue, KF 3467 .L56 (Second Floor)

This is an excellent one-volume treatise on workplace harassment. As with Employment Discrimination Law, this is a general, not California-specific, resource, and it is updated with a supplement.

Statutes and Regulations

When conducting statutory or regulatory research, it is important always to use an annotated code. Annotated codes, like U.S.C.A. and the annotated C.F.R. on Westlaw or U.S.C.S. on Lexis, provide citations to cases and secondary sources that have discussed your code section. When using an annotated code, always consult the Notes of Decision to find cases that have discussed the statute and citing references to see what else has cited the statute.


When researching case law, it is important always to use a citator for two reasons. First, it will tell you if your case is still good law. Second, it will provide citations to other cases (and secondary sources) that have discussed the case.