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LAW 4023: Legal Issues in Human Resources: Statutes & U.S. Code

LAW 4023

Statutes & United States Code

Statutes are laws written and enacted by the legislative branch of government. Most new laws are created through statutes (as opposed to being created by judges through case opinions); therefore, it is important that you realize that you will frequently begin your research projects by looking at a statute, rather than at cases.

At the federal level, each statute is published in three versions. First, a statute is enacted as a slip law, which is the statute by itself on a single sheet or in pamphlet form. When a slip law is published, it will be assigned a Public Law Number to identify it. The Public Law Number (e.g., Pub.L. No. 112-25) consists of two parts:  the first number represents the number of the Congress that passed the law; the second number represents the chronological order in which the law was passed. In the above example,Pub.L. No. 112-25 is the 25th law passed by the 112th Congress.  Slip laws/Public Laws are available in print or online through the Library of Congress' Congress.gov site.

Next, the statute is published as a session law. Session laws are the slip laws bound chronologically by Congressional session (each Congress lasts two years and is divided into two sessions). The Statutes at Large is the official U.S. government compilation of federal session laws.

While it's important to acknowledge the existence of slip laws and session laws, there are several problems with researching statutes using these formats:

  1. Usually you will be searching by subject, and neither slip laws nor session laws are arranged by subject.
  2. A statute may cover several subjects, and the subject matter you are looking for may not be apparent from the title of the statute. For example, would it be obvious from looking at the title of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 that this statute includes tax law provisions? 
  3. Each time a statute is amended, a separate Public Law must be passed, so you may have to read through several slip laws to get the complete and current version of a statute's language.
  4. Finally, from looking at slip laws or session laws, there's no way to tell if a statute has been repealed.

Therefore, when researching, you'll want to use the third version of a statute, which is published in a code. A code arranges the statutes by topic (rather than chronologically), indexes statutes to allow for subject access, and incorporates any amendments and repealed language to always give you the current picture of the law.


The United States Code is the codification by subject matter of the general and permanent laws of the United States. It is divided by broad subjects into 53 titles.

The official codification (i.e., the version published by the U.S. government) of federal statutes is the United States Code (U.S.C.). The U.S.C. is broken down into 53 subject Titles, with each Title representing a major subject area (e.g.,Banks and Banking, Labor, Transportation).  The U.S.C. is published in full every six years, but cumulative bound supplements are issued each year in between that allow you to update.

  • TITLE 1 - GENERAL PROVISIONS
  • TITLE 2 - THE CONGRESS
  • TITLE 3 - THE PRESIDENT
  • TITLE 4 - FLAG AND SEAL, SEAT OF GOVERNMENT, AND THE STATES
  • TITLE 5 - GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION AND EMPLOYEES
  • TITLE 5a - FEDERAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE ACT
  • TITLE 6 - DOMESTIC SECURITY
  • TITLE 7 - AGRICULTURE
  • TITLE 8 - ALIENS AND NATIONALITY
  • TITLE 9 - ARBITRATION
  • TITLE 10 - ARMED FORCES
  • TITLE 11 - BANKRUPTCY
  • TITLE 11a - BANKRUPTCY RULES
  • TITLE 12 - BANKS AND BANKING
  • TITLE 13 - CENSUS
  • TITLE 14 - COAST GUARD
  • TITLE 15 - COMMERCE AND TRADE
  • TITLE 16 - CONSERVATION
  • TITLE 17 - COPYRIGHTS
  • TITLE 18 - CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
  • TITLE 18a - UNLAWFUL POSSESSION OR RECEIPT OF FIREARMS
  • TITLE 19 - CUSTOMS DUTIES
  • TITLE 20 - EDUCATION
  • TITLE 21 - FOOD AND DRUGS
  • TITLE 22 - FOREIGN RELATIONS AND INTERCOURSE
  • TITLE 23 - HIGHWAYS
  • TITLE 24 - HOSPITALS AND ASYLUMS
  • TITLE 25 - INDIANS
  • TITLE 26 - INTERNAL REVENUE CODE
  • TITLE 27 - INTOXICATING LIQUORS
  • TITLE 28 - JUDICIARY AND JUDICIAL PROCEDURE
  • TITLE 28a - JUDICIAL PERSONNEL FINANCIAL DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS
  • TITLE 29 - LABOR
  • TITLE 30 - MINERAL LANDS AND MINING
  • TITLE 31 - MONEY AND FINANCE
  • TITLE 32 - NATIONAL GUARD
  • TITLE 33 - NAVIGATION AND NAVIGABLE WATERS
  • TITLE 34 - CRIME CONTROL AND LAW ENFORCEMENT
  • TITLE 35 - PATENTS
  • TITLE 36 - PATRIOTIC AND NATIONAL OBSERVANCES, CEREMONIES, AND ORGANIZATIONS
  • TITLE 37 - PAY AND ALLOWANCES OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES
  • TITLE 38 - VETERANS’ BENEFITS
  • TITLE 39 - POSTAL SERVICE
  • TITLE 40 - PUBLIC BUILDINGS, PROPERTY, AND WORKS
  • TITLE 41 - PUBLIC CONTRACTS
  • TITLE 42 - THE PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELFARE
  • TITLE 43 - PUBLIC LANDS
  • TITLE 44 - PUBLIC PRINTING AND DOCUMENTS
  • TITLE 45 - RAILROADS
  • TITLE 46 - SHIPPING
  • TITLE 47 - TELECOMMUNICATIONS
  • TITLE 48 - TERRITORIES AND INSULAR POSSESSIONS
  • TITLE 49 - TRANSPORTATION
  • TITLE 50 - WAR AND NATIONAL DEFENSE
  • TITLE 50a - WAR AND NATIONAL DEFENSE [ELIMINATED] Current through 114–86u1
  • TITLE 51 - NATIONAL AND COMMERCIAL SPACE PROGRAMS
  • TITLE 52 - VOTING AND ELECTIONS
  • TITLE 53 - [RESERVED]
  • TITLE 54 - NATIONAL PARK SERVICE AND RELATED PROGRAMS

HeinOnline - Offers older editions of the US Code if you are interested in following the development of specific topics through the 20th century.  It is also possible to search individual laws one at a time using the Statutes at Large section of the database.  It allows you to search by Public Law number or the popular name of the law.

GovInfo - FDsys contains virtual main editions of the U.S. Code, 1994 edition to the present.


LexisNexis Academic - provides access to full text of federal and state cases statutes, codes, and regulations.