State must reveal how it decided prostitutes are employees, Nevada Supreme Court rules

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation must release records of audits that were used to determine prostitutes in legal brothels are employees rather than independent contractors.

After the department made that ruling, operators of the Love Ranch filed a public records request asking for the audit records that led to that ruling. DETR officials refused arguing the information is confidential and exempt from disclosure.

District Judge Todd Russell ruled in favor of the brothel operators and the state appealed.

“Because we conclude that (state statute) does not categorically exempt the requested records from disclosure, we affirm the district court’s order granting Love Ranch’s petition and compelling DETR to comply with the request,” the opinion by Justice Abbi Silver states.

DETR in 2016 ruled that the prostitutes were employees of the Lyon County brothel and that the brothel operator had to contribute to the unemployment compensation trust fund like other businesses.

Love Ranch filed an administrative appeal and asked that the state produce all information and records related to the audit as well as audits and decisions involving other brothels, agreeing that personal confidential information could be redacted.

State statute generally states that all governmental books and records are open to the public unless specifically exempted from that requirement. The opinion states that restrictions on public access to governmental records should be, “narrowly construed” and that the governmental entity bears the burden of proving records are confidential.

The opinion concludes that, “the requested information was not confidential by law and that the interest in nondisclosure did not outweigh the public’s interest.”

The justices say that the exemption DETR claims applies in this case only protects the person’s identity and the employment unit’s identity from disclosure, not the audit documents and decision making process. They noted that the Love Ranch records request specifically stated they were not seeking information that would reveal anyone’s identity.

The ruling was unanimous.


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