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  • InsideTrack
  • June 07, 2023

    Legal Research 101: Employment Discrimination Law

    Employment discrimination complaints may be covered under state and federal law, and potentially even local provisions. Law librarian Elana Olson discusses the resources that serve as a guide when researching the law of employment discrimination.

    Elana H. Olson

    pregnant employee sits at computer

    June 7, 2023 – Amid graduation season and with the arrival of summer, some employers are likely seeing an uptick in hiring activities and other employment actions, providing an opportunity for reminders about a specific area of employment law: the law of employment discrimination.

    Employment discrimination law generally prohibits discrimination against employees, applicants, and former employees by an employer, based on protected characteristic or status. Though hiring and discharge situations often come to mind, discrimination is also prohibited with regard to additional employment actions impacting terms, conditions, and privileges of employment more generally.

    State and Federal Statutes & Regulations Governing Employment Discrimination

    Employment discrimination complaints may be covered under state and federal law, and potentially even local provisions. For that reason, it is important to be aware of the various sources of governing law and differences, including in coverage and remedies.

    For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ​protects employees and applicants of employers with 15 or more employees, and the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act protects employees and applicants of covered employers regardless of number of employees. The prohibited bases of discrimination vary, as well. For more on the relationship between Wisconsin, federal, and local employment discrimination laws (such as Madison Equal Opportunities Ordinance and Milwaukee Equal Rights Ordinance, including a discussion of the appropriate forum) see chapter 9 of A Guide to Wisconsin Employment Discrimination Law from State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE®.

    Key relevant Wisconsin and federal statutes include:

    Consult Wis. Admin. Code ch. DWD 218 for regulations governing Wisconsin fair employment procedures, including details regarding complaints, investigations, hearings, and petitions for review; and Wis. Admin. Code ch. LIRC 1 for administrative rules regarding equal rights decisions appealed to the Labor & Industry Review Commission.

    The regulations page on the Equal Opportunity Review Commission’s (EEOC) website is a useful starting point for federal regulations, providing access to new regulations, proposed regulations, and existing regulations. For current regulations, consider working with ​​​EEOC regulations on the e-CFR. The site continues to be unofficial, but has the benefit of incorporating any new or recently amended regulations. Alternatively, the “Discrimination by Type” pages on the EEOC’s website offer easy access to related regulations.

    Agency Websites and Materials

    Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development (DWD) website and the EEOC website both serve as strong launching points for research, with features and content including explanations of the law, links to statutes and regulations, details about filing a complaint or charge (including information about the statute of limitations as well as online filing options), statistics, and more.

    Elana H. Olson Elana H. Olson is the director of the Eckstein Law Library at Marquette University Law School and is a past president of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin (LLAW).

    On the DWD’s site, consider starting with the Equal Rights Division’s Discrimination in Employment overview. From there, navigate to details based on protected class, or scroll down to learn about the complaint process, get access to poster packets for employers (including state and federal), or take advantage of one of the useful “For more information” links at the bottom of the page. The Department of Workforce Development’s website is a rich source of information for everything from understanding the prohibited bases of discrimination to how to file a complaint and beyond. Visit the News page to browse news and press releases, follow the DWD on social media, or to sign up to receive DWD press releases and news.

    The EEOC’s website also offers an array of information, and avenues to that information. For a counterpart to the details by protected class on the DWD’s page, consider starting with the Discrimination by Type overview. Many of those “by type” pages provide boxes in the right column with essentials including coverage, time limits, and links to resources like fact pages, guidance, and even statistics. The agency’s Filing a Charge page provides access to online charge filing and explanations, including links to more information about dual filing with state agencies. Other features include a searchable, indexed database of EEOC guidance documents in force, data and statistics, a collection of Fact Sheets, and a newsroom.

    The Equal Rights pages of the Wisconsin’s Labor & Industry Review Commission’s (LIRC) website are also valuable agency resources. Decisions by DWD administrative law judges in equal rights matters can be appealed to LIRC. The site provides access to hundreds of LIRC equal rights decisions, select equal rights decisions of the Wisconsin Supreme Court or Wisconsin Court of Appeals, and even an Equal Rights Decision Digest with subject matter indexes and an alphabetical topic.

    Books and Treatises for Wisconsin & Federal Employment Discrimination Law Research

    The State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE® books offer practitioners several excellent resources to understand and work with employment discrimination law:

    A Guide to Wisconsin Employment Discrimination Law, written by Wisconsin Equal Rights Division Administrative Law Judge Rose Ann Wasserman, is a go-to resource for coverage of substantive and procedural law under the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act and includes explanations of federal and local employment discrimination law. Don’t skip the Appendix, starting with a chart of types of claims and relevant laws and including a collection of useful resources.

    Wisconsin Employment Law and Hiring and Firing in Wisconsin ​​​provide coverage, as well.

    In addition to these employment-focused books, several PINNACLE books address employment discrimination law in the context of other practice areas or focused interests, including:

    In addition, chapter 1 of Wisconsin Attorney’s Desk Reference is an outline of substantive and procedural aspects of the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act, offering a convenient overview of the law.

    For another Wisconsin-focused source, consider chapter 8 of Matthew Bender’s Employment in Wisconsin: A Guide to Employment Laws, Regulations, and Practices (available as a Lexis Digital eBook through the Wisconsin State Law Library, in Lexis, and in print at the State Law Library, Marquette Law Library, and U.W. Law Library).

    Additional Resources

    The State Bar of Wisconsin also offers regular CLE sessions covering employment law and employment discrimination claims. To find the latest offerings, use this link to the WisBar Marketplace.

    The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Labor & Employment Law Section presents regular CLE sessions, and the section blog is a good option for current awareness of related issues. You can join via this page on

    The Wisconsin State Law Library’s Employment Discrimination topic page provides easy access to some of the resources identified here, and more.

    Remember, Librarians are Always Ready to Help

    Many of the resources are available at your local law library. Librarians are ready to help with your estate planning research:

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