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Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case: Why your company must care

(Business News) Companies’ compliance with Obamacare may soon rely on the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case which cites religious freedom is violated by being forced to provide morning-after pills and IUDs to employees as they believe they constitute abortion.

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Contraceptives case heard before the Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday heard the long awaited case spearheaded by Hobby Lobby regarding whether for-profit companies may refuse to include contraception coverage as mandated by Obamacare, due to religious objections. It appears that the justices were split by gender, with male justices expressing skepticism and female justices supporting the contraception mandate.

After hearing the arguments, the justices will make a decision and write an opinion, with the final ruling expected in June.

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Hobby Lobby objects specifically to the morning-after pills and IUDs, which they argue constitute abortion, and at the early onset of the company’s lawyer’s arguments before the Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked, “What about employers who have religious objections to health plans that cover other basic medical procedures — blood transfusions, immunizations, medical products that include pork?”

The lawyer asserted that each would have to be evaluated by the courts – in other words, that is not in argument before the Court in this case.

Endless questions of “what if?”

Along the same lines, Justice Elena Kagan noted that an employer might have a religious objection to complying with sex discrimination laws, minimum wage laws, family leave laws, as well as child labor laws – what then?

Sotomayor noted that the Court has consistently resisted “measuring the depth of someone’s religious beliefs,” and added that the issue is convoluted – whose religious rights are being exercised? The business owners’? The corporate officers’? The shareholders’?

Kagan stated that Obamacare is a choice and that Hobby Lobby owners could simply pay the per-employee fine. By choice.

“I thought part of the religious commitment of the employers was to provide health insurance,” opined Chief Justice John Roberts, which Hobby Lobby’s lawyer agreed with.

Questions before the Solicitor General

Justice Anthony Kennedy said that the government sees this case as the employer putting its employees in a disadvantaged position, and asked if the employer’s religious beliefs just trump those of the employees? He told U.S. Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli, “Under your view, a for-profit corporation could be forced, in principle … to pay for abortions.”

Verrilli said there is no law requiring for-profit corporations to provide abortions, to which Roberts quickly asked, “Isn’t that what we are talking about? They have to pay for methods of contraception that they believe provide abortions.”

Verrilli noted that the methods in question are approved by the FDA, and under federal laws are not considered abortion.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out that although this case is focused solely on morning-after pills and IUDs, another employer may object to all contraceptives based on a decision in favor of Hobby Lobby, again, convoluting the issue.

Breyer asks if it couldn’t become a win-win

Justice Stephen Breyer simply asked if there is an alternative in the form of providing contraception coverage for Hobby Lobby employees that doesn’t violate owners’ religious rights, namely, having the government pay for the coverage.

Justice Antonin Scalia immediately added that these contraceptives aren’t exactly expensive.

Verrilli claimed that IUDs are the most effective method of contraception and cost between $500 and $1,000, and that even if the government agreed to pay, corporations signing forms attesting to their objections would make them “complicit,” which is exactly what many are already arguing.

What every company must know

First and foremost, depending on the size of your company, whether or not you must cover the cost of contraceptives will soon be determined, and fines may be associated with a lack of compliance.

Below is how the mandate currently works, an although it is being challenged, you should be aware of what is required of your company or your employer:

breaking-it-down

For full details, the Wall Street Journal did an amazing job of live blogging the entire hearing.

Business News

$100m reimagined convenience store startup to open 25 stores in 2022

(BUSINESS) Foxtrot is looking to redefine the convenience store as we know it. This startup is looking to make it a whole new experience.

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Laptop with Foxtrot convenience store locations in Chicago.

Move over 7-11, there’s a new player in town! There’s always room for competition, even in the world of convenience stores. Yes, you read that right, Quick Trip has some serious competition from a newcomer, Foxtrot.

Foxtrot is a curated, modern convenience store offering a brisk 30-minute delivery and 5-minute pick-up. It was created by Mike LaVitola and Taylor Bloom in 2014. These stores will undoubtedly be popular in walkable areas, but also with their online ordering convenience. This modern version of a convenience store offers the combination of an upscale corner store with a digital-first e-commerce platform. Sounds pretty glorious, right?

However, the original convenience store is safe as long as people are traveling and need to stop for gas or a restroom break.  If you’re from Texas, then you know and love, Buc-ee’s, the Texas-born chain. Buc-ee’s have been creating their own in-store products garnering a cult following among their customers. Still, Buc-ee’s doesn’t have an online ordering or delivery option unless it’s offered through a third party.

Foxtrot has raised $160 million in Series C funding and they are expecting to open 25 locations in many cities in 2022. There are a few different levels of funding. If a company makes it to Series C funding, they are already successful and looking to expand or develop new products per Investopedia.

According to Retail Dive, “About half of the new stores will be in Chicago, Dallas and Washington, where all of the 16 stores Foxtrot currently operates are located, LaVitola said. The tech-focused retailer is also planning to begin operations in Boston and Austin, and intends to open four or five new stores in each of those cities during the next year and a half, he said.”

Foxtrot is testing out technology equipment that would allow customers to leave the store without stopping to checkout at the counter. They plan isn’t to go entirely self-service, but as the creator LaVitola stated, “the more hours we can allocate towards sampling and storytelling and interacting with customers and less [on] tasks that don’t add on to value, like checkout, that’s great.”

Foxtrot is redefining convenience by including carefully curated products. They aim to offer local popular products as well core pantry items. They aim to make the commonly unpleasant experience of convenience stores enjoyable. Let’s hope they succeed.

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Business News

What small business owners can learn from Starbucks’ new D&I strategy

(BUSINESS) Diversity and inclusion have been at the forefront of Starbucks’ mission, but now they’re shifting strategy. What can we learn from it?

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Hands of all different skin colors on green background representing Starbucks' D&I.

Starbucks was one of many companies that promised to focus on diversity and inclusion efforts after the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020. What sets Starbucks apart from other companies were its specific goals.

How It Started

They began with hiring targets and have now added goals in corporate and manufacturing roles. Starbucks’ plans and goals revolve around transparency for accountability. They released the annual numbers for 2021 as a way to help hold themselves accountable. The data they’ve released so far show that they’ve met nearly a third of their 2025 goals according to Retail Brew. Because of this information, we can see why they are choosing to move in the direction of manufacturing and corporate jobs. In 2021, POC’s fell to 12.5% of director-level employees from 14.3% in 2020 in manufacturing.

How It’s Going

Per Starbucks’ website stories and news, “[I]t will increase its annual spend with diverse suppliers to $1.5 billion by 2030.  As part of this commitment, Starbucks will partner with other organizations to develop and grow supplier diversity excellence globally.” To put that into perspective, they spent nearly $800 million with diverse suppliers in 2021. With these moves, by 2030, it will increase by almost double.

As part of their accountability and progress, they plan to partner up with Arizona State University to give out free toolkits to entrepreneurs on fundamentals for running successful diverse-owned businesses. Another goal they’ve listed is to boost paid media representation by allocating 15 percent of the advertising budget to minority-owned and targeted media companies to reach diverse audiences.

At the heart of all this information on their goals and future plans, data transparency and accountability are what’s forcing them to look at the numbers to make specific goals. They are doing more than just throwing money at the problem, they are analyzing how they can do better and where the money will make a difference. Something that, as entrepreneurs, we should all do.

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Business News

Peloton is back-pedaling: Reports of price increases, layoffs, and cost cuts

(BUSINESS) After a recording of layoffs leaks, ‘supply chain’ issues cause shipping increases, and they consult for cost-cutting, Peloton is doomed.

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Man riding Peloton bike with instructor pointing encouragingly during workout.

Is Peloton in Trouble?

According to many reports, Peloton had success early in the pandemic when gyms shut down. Offering consumers a way to connect with a community for fitness along with varying financing options allowed the company to see growth when many other industries were being shuttered.

After two years, CNBC reports that the company is “being impacted by …supply chain challenges” and rising inflation costs. According to the report, customers will be paying an additional $250 for its bike and $350 for its tread for delivery and setup.

As demand has decreased, Peloton is also considering layoffs in their sales and marketing departments, overheard in a leaked audio call. The recording details executives discussing “Project Fuel” where they plan to cut 41% of the sales and marketing teams, as well as letting go of eCommerce employees and frontline workers at 15 retail stores.

Nasdaq reported that the stock fell 75% last year, after a year where it soared over 400%.

Peloton reviewing its overall structure

According to another report from CNBC, Peloton is working with McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, to lower costs as revenue has dropped and the growth of new subscriptions has slowed since the pandemic. Last November, according to NPR, Peloton had “its worst day as a publicly-traded company.” It also anticipates greater losses in 2022 than originally predicted. It makes sense that the company would reexamine their strategy as the economy changes. They aren’t the only one that is raising prices amid supply chain issues.

It will be interesting to watch how Peloton fares

Peloton has a large community that pays a monthly fee for connected fitness. While growth has slowed, the company still has a strong share of consumers. Although it is facing more competition in the home fitness market and more gyms are reopening, as Peloton adjusts to the new normal, it should remain a viable company.

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