Application Eligibility

Criteria Guidelines:

The basic criteria for becoming living wage certified is that an employer pays at least the current living wage rate to their employees.  The Living Wage Rate in Buncombe County and Western North Carolina (except Transylvania County) for 2017 is $13.00/hr or $11.50 with employer provided health insurance.  We recognize that there are different types of employees, employers, and compensation and have made the following clarifications:

Some exceptions:

The certification program has some exceptions for apprentices, minors under 18 working part-time, interns, and temporary-project based employees.  Also, employees in a probationary or training period not to exceed the first 90 days of employment are exempt from the wage criteria.

1099 contractors:

Our basic criteria is formulated for W-2 employees, however  some business types rely on the use of 1099 ’employees’.  If you pay 1099 workers to carry out the main aspect of your business and pay them an hourly rate, we have special requirements to ensure that the tax liability of these workers is taken into consideration when determining a living wage.  If you are using independent contractors for professional services such as accountants or lawyers, or if you are contracting with a service for a specific job such as a janitorial service that cleans your office, this information is unnecessary in determining your eligibility for certification.

Employees that receive tips, commission, or alternative means of compensation besides an hourly rate:

Our goal is to make sure that employees are consistently making a living wage when you combine their base wage with other forms of monetary compensation like tips, commission, etc.  If your employees are consistently making a living wage when the other forms of compensation are considered, your business is eligible for certification but will require additional follow up by Just Economics’ staff.

Other considerations in determining the wage criteria:

A living wage is meant to be what an employee needs to meet their basic needs without public or private assistance.  We consider a few subtractions to the wage criteria only if they are contributing to basic needs of food, healthcare, transportation, or housing.  We have formulas for determining eligibility using one of these subtractions and a Certification Committee and Board of Directors that make final determinations on eligibility.  We have two different wage rates based on whether an employee receives qualifying healthcare from their employer.  The other adjustment to the wage criteria that is being utilized is for meals and we have a protocol for determining this adjustment.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Do part time employees count?

Yes,  Just Economics does not differentiate wage rates for part-time versus full-time employees.  We look at our wage rate as a more just minimum than the minimum wage.  The formula is based on what a worker would need to make if they were to work full time but do not make exceptions to the wage criteria for part-time employees.

How is the wage rate determined?

We use the Universal Living Wage formula to determine and adjust our wage rate.  For more on this formula click here for Wage Rate.

Do you take into account non-monetary benefits such as employee discounts, into consideration?

The idea of a living wage is that a full time worker could meet their basic needs without public or private assistance.  We consider adjustments to the wage criteria that are impact basic needs.  We consider basic needs to be housing, food, transportation, and healthcare.  We certainly applaud and encourage other non-monetary benefits such as retirement, free passes, or employee discounts, but we consider what an employee needs to make in order to meet their basic needs.  While we view childcare as a basic need for people with children and we strongly support accommodations for childcare, our formula is based on a single individuals needs and we don’t subtract from the wage criteria for this benefit.

What else does Just Economics do?

The Living Wage Employer Certification is one program of Just Economics that helps us work toward our mission of educating, advocating, and organizing for a just and sustainable local economy.  For more on how this program fits into our mission and what else we do, click here for a bit About Us.

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