1999 Montana Legislature

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     Section 1.  Section 39-51-201, MCA, is amended to read:

     "39-51-201.  General definitions. As used in this chapter, unless the context clearly requires otherwise, the following definitions apply:

     (1)  "Annual payroll" means the total amount of wages paid by an employer, regardless of the time of payment, for employment during a calendar year.

     (2)  "Base period" means the first 4 of the last 5 completed calendar quarters immediately preceding the first day of an individual's benefit year. However, in the case of a combined-wage claim pursuant to the arrangement approved by the secretary of labor of the United States, the base period is the period applicable under the unemployment law of the paying state. For an individual who fails to meet the qualifications of 39-51-2105 or a similar statute of another state because of a temporary total disability, as defined in 39-71-116, or a similar statute of another state or the United States, the base period means the first 4 quarters of the last 5 completed calendar quarters preceding the disability if a claim for unemployment benefits is filed within 24 months of the date on which the individual's disability was incurred.

     (3)  "Benefit year", with respect to any individual, means the 52-consecutive-week period beginning with the first day of the calendar week in which the individual files a valid claim for benefits, except that the benefit year is 53 weeks if filing a new valid claim would result in overlapping any quarter of the base year of a previously filed new claim. A subsequent benefit year may not be established until the expiration of the current benefit year. However, in the case of a combined-wage claim pursuant to the arrangement approved by the secretary of labor of the United States, the base period is the period applicable under the unemployment law of the paying state.

     (4)  "Benefits" means the money payments payable to an individual, as provided in this chapter, with respect to the individual's unemployment.

     (5)  "Board" means the board of labor appeals provided for in Title 2, chapter 15, part 17.

     (6)  "Calendar quarter" means the period of 3 consecutive calendar months ending on March 31, June 30, September 30, or December 31.

     (7)  "Contributions" means the money payments to the state unemployment insurance fund required by this chapter but does not include assessments under 39-51-404(4).

     (8)  "Department" means the department of labor and industry provided for in Title 2, chapter 15, part 17.

     (9)  "Domestic or household service" means employment of persons other than members of the household for the purpose of tending to the aid and comfort of the employer or members of the employer's family, including but not limited to housecleaning and yard work, but does not include employment beyond the scope of normal household or domestic duties such as home health care or domiciliary care.

     (10) "Employing unit" means any individual or organization (including the state government and any of its political subdivisions or instrumentalities), partnership, association, trust, estate, joint-stock company, insurance company, limited liability company, or limited liability partnership that has filed with the secretary of state, or corporation, whether domestic or foreign, or the receiver, trustee in bankruptcy, trustee or the trustee's successor, or legal representative of a deceased person that has or had in its employ one or more individuals performing services for it within this state, except as provided under 39-51-204(1)(a) and (1)(q). All individuals performing services within this state for any employing unit that maintains two or more separate establishments within this state are considered to be employed by a single employing unit for all the purposes of this chapter. Each individual employed to perform or assist in performing the work of any agent or employee of an employing unit is considered to be employed by the employing unit for the purposes of this chapter, whether the individual was hired or paid directly by the employing unit or by the agent or employee, provided that the employing unit has actual or constructive knowledge of the work.

     (11) "Employment office" means a free public employment office or branch of an office operated by this state or maintained as a part of a state-controlled system of public employment offices or other free public employment offices operated and maintained by the United States government or its instrumentalities as the department may approve.

     (12) "Fund" means the unemployment insurance fund established by this chapter to which all contributions and payments in lieu of contributions are required to be paid and from which all benefits provided under this chapter must be paid.

     (13) "Gross misconduct" means a criminal act, other than a violation of a motor vehicle traffic law, for which an individual has been convicted in a criminal court or has admitted or conduct that demonstrates a flagrant and wanton disregard of and for the rights or title or interest of a fellow employee or the employer.

     (14) "Hospital" means an institution that has been licensed, certified, or approved by the state as a hospital.

     (15) "Independent contractor" means an individual who renders service in the course of an occupation and:

     (a)  has been and will continue to be free from control or direction over the performance of the services, both under a contract and in fact; and

     (b)  is engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business.

     (16) (a) "Institution of higher education", for the purposes of this part, means an educational institution that:

     (i)  admits as regular students only individuals having a certificate of graduation from a high school or the recognized equivalent of a certificate;

     (ii) is legally authorized in this state to provide a program of education beyond high school;

     (iii) provides an educational program for which it awards a bachelor's or higher degree or provides a program that is acceptable for full credit toward a bachelor's or higher degree, a program of postgraduate or postdoctoral studies, or a program of training to prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation; and

     (iv) is a public or other nonprofit institution.

     (b)  Notwithstanding subsection (16)(a), all universities in this state are institutions of higher education for purposes of this part.

     (17) "State" includes, in addition to the states of the United States of America, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Canada.

     (18) "Taxes" means contributions and assessments required under this chapter but does not include penalties or interest for past-due or unpaid contributions or assessments.

     (19) "Temporary service contractor" has the meaning provided in 39-8-102.

     (20) "Temporary service employee" means an employee of a temporary service contractor whose services are furnished to a client of the temporary service contractor on a part-time or temporary basis.

     (19)(21) "Unemployment insurance administration fund" means the unemployment insurance administration fund established by this chapter from which administrative expenses under this chapter must be paid.

     (20)(22) (a) "Wages", unless specifically exempted under subsection (20)(b) (22)(b), means all remuneration payable for personal services, including the cash value of all remuneration paid in any medium other than cash. The reasonable cash value of remuneration payable in any medium other than cash must be estimated and determined pursuant to rules prescribed by the department. The term includes but is not limited to:

     (i)  commissions, bonuses, and remuneration paid for overtime work, holidays, vacations, and sickness periods;

     (ii) severance or continuation pay, backpay, and any similar pay made for or in regard to previous service by the employee for the employer, other than retirement or pension benefits from a qualified plan; and

     (iii) tips or other gratuities received by the employee, to the extent that the tips or gratuities are documented by the employee to the employer for tax purposes.

     (b)  The term "wages" does not include:

     (i)  the amount of any payment made by the employer for employees, if the payment was made for:

     (A)  retirement or pension pursuant to a qualified plan as defined under the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code;

     (B)  sickness or accident disability under a workers' compensation policy;

     (C)  medical or hospitalization expenses in connection with sickness or accident disability including health insurance for the employee or the employee's immediate family; or

     (D)  death, including life insurance for the employee or the employee's immediate family; or

     (ii)  employee expense reimbursements or allowances for meals, lodging, travel, subsistence, or other expenses, as set forth in department rules.

     (21)(23) "Week" means a period of 7 consecutive calendar days ending at midnight on Saturday.

     (22)(24) An individual's "weekly benefit amount" means the amount of benefits that the individual would be entitled to receive for 1 week of total unemployment."

     Section 2.  Section 39-51-2302, MCA, is amended to read:

     "39-51-2302.  Disqualification for leaving work without good cause. (1) An individual must be disqualified for benefits if the individual has left work without good cause attributable to the individual's employment.

     (2)  The individual may not be disqualified if the individual leaves:

     (a) employment because of personal illness or injury not associated with misconduct upon the advice of a licensed and practicing physician and, after recovering from the illness or injury when recovery is certified by a licensed and practicing physician, the individual returned to and offered service to the individual's employer and the individual's regular or comparable suitable work was not available, as determined by the department, provided the individual is otherwise eligible; or

     (b)  temporary work accepted during a period of unemployment caused by a lack of work with the individual's regular employer if upon leaving the temporary work the individual returned immediately to work for the individual's regular employer, provided that the individual is unemployed for nondisqualifying reasons.

     (3) (a) For purposes of this section, a temporary service employee is considered to have left work if, upon completion of the temporary service employee's most recent assignment by a temporary service contractor, the temporary service employee fails within 48 hours following completion of the assignment to contact the temporary service contractor for reassignment.

     (b) Subsection (3)(a) applies only if the temporary service contractor obtains from the temporary service employee at the time of hiring written acknowledgment that the employee was notified in writing that:

     (i) the temporary service employee has an obligation at the end of each assignment to contact the temporary service contractor for reassignment;

     (ii) contact with the temporary service contractor must be made within 48 hours following completion of an assignment; and

     (iii) failure of the employee to contact the temporary service contractor within the timeframe prescribed by this section may be grounds for denial of unemployment insurance benefits.

     (3)(4)  To requalify for benefits, an individual shall perform services other than self-employment for which remuneration is received equal to or in excess of six times the individual's weekly benefit amount subsequent to the week in which the act causing the disqualification occurred unless the individual has been in regular attendance at an educational institution accredited by the state of Montana for at least 3 consecutive months from the date of the individual's enrollment."

     Section 3.  Section 39-51-2508, MCA, is amended to read:

     "39-51-2508.  Eligibility requirements for extended benefits -- disqualifications -- acceptance of suitable work. (1) An individual is eligible to receive extended benefits with respect to any week of unemployment in this eligibility period only if the department finds with respect to the week that the individual:

     (a)  is an exhaustee, as defined in 39-51-2501;

     (b)  has been paid total wages for employment in the base period, as defined in 39-51-201, in an amount not less than:

     (i)  1.5 times the wages earned in the calendar quarter in which wages were the highest during the base period;

     (ii) 40 times the individual's most recent weekly benefit amount; or

     (iii) insured wages for 20 weeks of work;

     (c)  is not disqualified for the receipt of regular benefits pursuant to part 23 of this chapter and, if disqualified, the individual satisfies the requirements for requalification in that part; and

     (d)  has satisfied the other requirements of this chapter for the receipt of regular benefits that are applicable to individuals claiming extended benefits.

     (2)  In addition to the disqualifications provided for in subsection (1)(c), an individual is disqualified for extended benefits if the individual fails to seek work. The disqualification continues for the week in which the failure occurs and until the individual has performed services, other than self-employment, for which remuneration is received equal to or in excess of the individual's weekly benefit amount in 4 separate weeks subsequent to the date the act causing the disqualification occurred.

     (3)  A regular benefit claimant who is disqualified for gross misconduct under 39-51-2303(2) may not be paid extended benefits unless the individual has earned at least eight times the weekly benefit amount after the date of the disqualification.

     (4)  A regular benefit claimant who voluntarily leaves work to attend school and, pursuant to 39-51-2302(3)(4), requalifies for regular benefits may not be paid extended benefits unless the individual has earned at least six times the weekly benefit amount.

     (5)  For the purposes of determining eligibility for extended benefits, the department shall by rule define the term "suitable work". The definition must be in accordance with the requirements of 26 U.S.C. 3304."

     NEW SECTION.  Section 4.  Effective date -- applicability. [This act] is effective July 1, 1999, and applies to initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits filed on or after July 1, 1999.

- END -

Latest Version of HB 328 (HB0328.01)
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