(1) Claimant shall make a good faith effort to apply for suitable work and shall accept an offer of suitable work. The department shall determine what constitutes suitable work for the claimant and shall expand the definition of suitable work as the period of claimant's unemployment increases.
(2) The department shall allow claimant 13 weeks of paid benefits during which to seek claimant's customary occupation or comparable work to preserve claimant's highest use of skills and earning potential.
(3) To determine whether employment constitutes suitable work, the department shall consider factors including, but not limited to:
(a) prospects for reemployment in claimant's customary occupation or comparable work;
(b) claimant's prior earnings and length of claimant's current unemployment:
(i) during the first half of the benefit entitlement period, work is suitable when it pays the prevailing wage in the locality for claimant's customary occupation or comparable work;
(ii) after 13 weeks of paid benefits, work is suitable when it pays 75 percent of claimant's earnings in prior insured work in claimant's customary occupation; or
(iii) work is not suitable when the offered wage is substantially less favorable to the claimant than the prevailing wage for similar work in the locality;
(c) claimant's prior work experience, training, education, and occupational licensure:
(i) work in related occupations becomes suitable when claimant has no realistic expectation of obtaining employment in an occupation that utilizes claimant's highest skill level; and
(ii) after 13 weeks of paid benefits, suitable work may be in any occupation that claimant worked during the base period or any work claimant can reasonably perform consistent with claimant's past experience, training, and skills;
(d) degree of risk to the claimant's health and safety:
(i) work is not suitable if it presents a risk to claimant's physical or mental health that is greater than the usual risks associated with claimant's customary occupation; or
(ii) work is not suitable if claimant would be required to perform tasks that would cause or substantially aggravate claimant's health problems;
(e) claimant's physical fitness and ability to perform work:
(i) claimant must be able to perform suitable work; and
(ii) work beyond claimant's capacity to perform is not suitable;
(f) working conditions:
(i) work is not suitable that does not pay at least the state or federal minimum wage;
(ii) work is not suitable when the provisions of an employment agreement or physical conditions of work are substantially less favorable than those of similar work in the locality;
(iii) suitable work corresponds with the customary hours of work for similar work in the locality or the hours worked by claimant worked during the base period;
(iv) claimant's convenience or preference for certain work hours does not make otherwise suitable work not suitable;
(v) work may not be suitable when fringe benefits offered, including group health insurance, life insurance, paid personal time off, retirement plans, or severance pay are substantially less favorable than benefits received by claimant during the base period or substantially less than fringe benefits provided for similar work in the locality, whichever is lower;
(vi) work is not suitable when working conditions violate any state or federal law, or the job opening is due to a strike, lockout, or labor dispute; or
(vii) work is not suitable when, as a condition of being employed, claimant is required to join a company union or to resign from or refrain from joining any bona fide labor organization;
(g) part-time work:
(i) when the department has authorized claimant to seek part-time work pursuant to 39-51-2115, MCA, part-time work at the hours authorized by the department may be suitable; or
(ii) when claimant has no recent history of part-time work, such work may be suitable when claimant has been unemployed for an extended period and has no immediate prospect of full-time work;
(h) religious or moral convictions:
(i) claimant may raise a conscientious objection to the department when otherwise suitable work conflicts with a sincerely held religious or moral conviction; and
(ii) claimant bears the burden to show that a conscientious objection to otherwise suitable work is held in good faith; or
(i) distance of available work from the claimant's residence.
(4) Work that was once suitable for claimant may become unsuitable due to circumstances beyond the claimant's or employer's control. When adjudicating a work refusal, pursuant to ARM 24.11.455, or a separation from work, pursuant to ARM 24.11.457, the department shall consider previously suitable work as not suitable when:
(a) claimant has made a good faith effort to comply with licensing requirements or governing regulations but has failed to pass the required course(s) or licensing exam;
(b) claimant has submitted to the department an individualized determination of work unsuitability due to claimant's physical or mental disability, certified and signed by a health care provider; or
(c) employer has unreasonably altered hours, terms of employment, working conditions, or claimant's wage by reducing the wage by 20 percent or more, as described by ARM 24.11.457.
(5) Claimant may appeal a department determination of suitable work pursuant to 39-51-2402 and 39-51-2403, MCA. Claimant bears the burden of proof that work is not suitable.