The Office of General Counsel issued the following opinion on March 26, 2007, representing the position of the New York State Insurance Department.
Re: Insurer’s Rejection of an Applicant’s Request for Appointment as Producer
Pursuant to the New York Insurance Law, must a health insurer disclose to an applicant for appointment as a producer the reasons for the denial of such appointment?
Pursuant to the New York Insurance Law, may an authorized health insurer refuse to appoint an otherwise qualified individual based solely, upon race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or national origin?
No. The New York Insurance Law does not require a health insurer to disclose to the applicant the reasons for denial of appointment.
While the New York Insurance Law does not address this question specifically, there are many other federal and state laws that do. Moreover, the Superintendent of Insurance may investigate and punish any unfair trade practice of an insurer.
The inquirer reports that he/she is an insurance agent who applied for appointment as an agent with a health insurer. He/she inquires whether the insurer must provide a specific reason for denying such appointment, and whether it may base denial on the ground of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or national origin.
The New York Insurance Law does not require an insurer to provide an applicant for appointment as a producer with any specific reasons for the denial of his/her application.
Moreover, the Insurance Law does not specifically address whether an insurer may reject an applicant because of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or national origin. However, federal law1, the New York State Constitution2 and other New York laws prohibit certain forms of discrimination. One of these laws, New York Executive Law § 296(a), states in relevant part:
It shall be an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer or licensing agency, because of the age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, military status, sex, disability, genetic predisposition or carrier status, or marital status of any individual, to refuse to hire or employ or to bar or to discharge from employment such individual or to discriminate against such individual in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment.
Additionally, New York Insurance Law § 2404 (McKinney 2006) empowers the Superintendent of Insurance to investigate and penalize an individual for engaging in any unfair trade practice that the Superintendent finds is a determined violation. The Superintendent expects all licensees of the Department to adhere to all applicable laws, and not engage in unlawful discrimination. Therefore, even though there is no specific provision of the Insurance Law regarding unlawful discrimination in the employment of insurance agents, the Superintendent can and will take appropriate disciplinary action against a licensee that engages in unlawful discrimination in hiring
For further information you may contact Associate Attorney Pascale Jean-Baptiste at the New York City Office.
1 See 42 USC § 2000e-2 (2007) (stating that it shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse or fail to hire an individual because of the individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin).
2 N.Y. Const. art. I § 11 (“[n]o person shall, because of race, color, creed, or religion, be subjected to any discrimination in his or her civil rights by any other person or by any firm, corporation or institution”).