Before a federal regulation can be made,
After all of this statutory authority is in place, an agency can then make regulations or rules that are within the agency's area of expertise as defined by statute, and those regulations and rules will have the force of law.
For these reasons, you will find that the process of researching regulations will often require researching statutes as well.
When researching online, a statute created by Congress can look very similar to a regulation created by an agency, so be careful to distinguish whether you are looking at the United States Code (statutes) or the Federal Code of Regulations.
There are two common ways in which the relationship between statutes and regulations affects legal analysis:
If you have found a statute, there may or may not be a related regulation. It depends on whether the legislature has authorized an agency to make regulations on that topic or not. Even if an agency is authorized, it still depends on whether the agency has in fact made regulations on that topic. Sometimes agencies take years to get around to publishing regulations they're authorized to publish.
On the other hand, sometimes numerous regulations are published, possibly by more than one agency that Congress authorized. For example, at least two federal agencies are responsible for writing rules and regulations to implement and enforce the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Section 7202(a) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act authorizes the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to "promulgate such rules and regulations, as may be necessary or appropriate in the public interest or for the protection of investors, and in furtherance of this Act." 15 U.S.C. § 7202(a) (2018). However, any person alleging discharge or other discriminatory action under the whistleblower protections of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act must file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor. 18 U.S.C. § 1514A(b)(1)(A). Note that these two statutes are in different titles of the U.S. Code.
If you find a regulation, there is at least one related statute you will also need to be aware of - the statute that gave the agency the authority to make that regulation. There may be additional statutes or other resources which need to be read together, in order to put the regulation in proper context.
In compliance with the notice provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act, federal agencies generally publish rules, proposed rules, and notices of the various Federal agencies and organizations in the Federal Register (FR), which is published here on the govinfo.gov site and in print. Additionally executive orders and other presidential documents are published in the Federal Register.
The Federal Register is updated daily by 6 a.m. and published Monday through Friday. The Federal Register page numbers range in the ten-thousands because, although published daily, it is designated a single volume number per year.
Once the comment period, which varies, has passed, federal agencies publish their final regulations in the Federal Register.
The final rule includes:
The Federal Register can also be found at https://www.federalregister.gov/ which also links to the official published documents ultimately found on the govinfo.gov site and in print. Documents may be found here before they are found in the print volumes and even at govinfo.gov.
Once a final rule is published in the Federal Register, the Office of the Federal Register and the Government Publishing Office (GPO) process the new regulations to codify them, or organize them by agency and subject into titles, parts, and sections, in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), both online and in print.
All the regulations created by a particular agency will usually be in the same title of the CFR. The 50 titles of regulations in the CFR appear similar to the 50 titles of statutes in the United States Code. Similar to how a statutory code title is further divided into chapters and sections, the CFR titles are further divided into chapters, parts and sections. This is a potential pitfall when researching in both regulations and statutes given their similar divisions.
Be careful to look at the top of the page to check whether you are in the Code of Federal Regulations or the United States Code.
In addition to the print and official online versions of the CFR, there is also an electronic unofficial version, eCFR,gov, which is further discussed in the next sections.
The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) provides ways for researchers who find codified regulations to trace backward in the regulatory process to find:
AUTHORITY: The authority note at the end of the table of contents for Part 1980 indicates that 18 USC 1514A (a federal statute that is part of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act) gave the agency the authority to make all the regulations in Part 1980, including section 1980.103.
The authority note also lists orders from the Secretary of Labor that were published in the Federal Register. This is because Congress authorized the Department of Labor to make regulations, and then the Secretary of Labor delegated authority to a specific agency within the department—the Occupational Safety and Heath Administration (OSHA)—to make these regulations.
SOURCE: The source note, also at the end of the table of contents, refers to Volume 80, page 11880 of the Federal Register (cited as 80 FR 11880) where the final rule was published on March 5, 2015. The sections of that final rule were later codified in this Part of the CFR.
"Unless otherwise noted" in the source note tells you that every section codified in Part 1980 was added to the CFR because it was in the final rule published at 80 FR 11880 on March 5, 2015, unless a specific section within Part 1980 has a note after that individual section indicating that it was added or amended by some other final rule published on some later date.
Some regulations are effective beginning with their date of publication as a final rule in the Federal Register, and some are effective weeks or even months later. The Federal Register will always give the effective date when it publishes a final regulation.
The Federal Register provides the effective date in the preamble to a final rule. Click to expand the image below.
Online databases will usually note the effective date of a regulation, but may display it in varying locations.
Westlaw provides the effective date at the top of a regulation:
Lexis includes the effective date in the Notes after a regulation.
Instead of scrolling down, try clicking Notes on the navigation bar at the left to quickly jump down to "Notes" in the annotations below the regulation.
A federal agency can conduct hearings and issue decisions interpreting and enforcing its own regulations. These agency rulings may be reviewed by Administrative Law Judges (ALJs). Administrative Law Judge decisions are appealed to the federal court system. The exact procedures followed by a particular federal agency are governed by the federal legislation empowering that agency to promulgate regulations and by the federal Administrative Procedures Act.