The federal minimum wage is $7.25. The minimum wage was last raised in 2009.

While 29 states and the District of Columbia have raised their minimum wages since 2009, North Carolina has not. The minimum wage in our state is still $7.25 an hour. And due to inflation over that eight years, the real value of the minimum wage has eroded to $6.55.

But the good news is that here in Orange County – and in Durham and Asheville – there is a voluntary push to raise wages, with employers becoming certified as “living wage employers.” Orange County Living Wage (OCLW) is a nonprofit dedicated to living wage advocacy through voluntary employer certification. Once an employer is certified as paying a living wage, OCLW promotes their good work in the county and region.

Our goal is to continually increase awareness of the issue and add more living wage employers. And we’re always publicly promoting our living wage employers to help them grow their business and thrive in our community.

Some employers were paying living wages prior to certification; they participated in our process to become publicly recognized as living wage employers. Other businesses had to raise wages to qualify as a living wage employer. As of May 2018, 166 employers were certified as paying the living wage in Orange County.

OCLW calculates the living wage using the universal living wage formula. The living wage varies by state and county according to the amount paid for rent. The living wage in Orange County is $13.70 for each regular full- or part-time employee (or $12.20 if an employer also offers health insurance).

The living wage applies to all regular full- and part-time employees. All tipped, commissioned, and variable wage-rate employees must be paid the living wage. This can include a lower hourly wage rate, so long as tips and commissions, together with the base rate, meet or exceed the living wage.

Some types of employees are exempt, including:

  • interns and apprentices;
  • temporary or project-based employees working no more than 90 days in a calendar year;
  • minors working part-time or “probationary” employees, or;
  • independent contractors paid via a 1099.

Since Orange County Living Wage began certifying employers in the fall of 2015, nearly 400 employees have received raises. Together, wages at the low end of the pay scale have risen by more than $650,000.

And more employers are becoming certified every month. As Orange County Living Wage grows, connecting to all stakeholders is vital. Employees, employers, community members, customers of living wage employers, and government officials all help to make living wages work.

We welcome your insights into how living wages are working at your job and in your life. Please email us with your questions, comments, and feedback.

If you have concerns or questions about your employer’s certification or payment of the living wage, please submit them to us with the Employee Concern Form.