Sun. Feb 25th, 2024

    CEO of baby apparel brand Kyte Baby apologizes after denying employee’s remote work request while newborn was in NICU

    The Dallas-based baby apparel brand Kyte Baby came under fire on social media for a remote work issue.

    Kyte Baby denied an employee’s request to work remotely to care for her newborn.Critics railed against the company on social media for not being understanding of new parents.  The company’s founder has apologized on TikTok and revised its maternity leave policy.

    The stakes are getting higher in the return to office battle

    The Dallas-based baby apparel brand Kyte Baby has been under fire this week for taking a hard line on remote work. The company allegedly fired its studio coordinator Marissa Hughes after she requested to work remotely to care for her newborn baby. The decision sparked backlash on social media, angry customers began boycotting the brand, and the company’s founder and CEO Ying Liu has apologized for the decision on TikTok — twice. 

    “I was insensitive, selfish, and had only been focused on the fact that her job had always been done on site, and I did not see the possibility of doing it remotely,” Liu said in an apology video she posted on TikTok on Thursday. “Thinking back, it was a terrible mistake.” 

    Remote work request — denied. 

    The saga began back in December when Hughes and her husband received a call from an adoption agency telling them about a newborn baby in the intensive care unit in El Paso, nine hours away from their Dallas home, Hughes’ sister Kailee Moeller said in a video on TikTok. 

    The company agreed to let Hughes work remotely for two weeks to take care of her new baby, Moeller said. Hughes’ role at Kyte Baby involved taking care of “everything in studio” from the models to the wardrobes to the sets for the company’s photo shoots and marketing initiatives, according Moeller. Hughes had also been working at Kyte for under a year which meant she wasn’t entitled to benefits from the Family and Medical Leave Act, which give certain new parents up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave.

    While the details of Hughes’ discussions with her managers aren’t entirely clear, she seemed to have requested a more extensive maternity leave and questioned why she wasn’t entitled to the same maternity benefits as her pregnant colleague, according to Moeller. The company ultimately told Hughes that if she didn’t return to work in two weeks she would essentially be forfeiting her job, Moeller said. 

    Hughes never returned to work, according to USA Today. She’s been posting updates about her newborn on a GoFundMe page dedicated to raising money for his medical costs. 

    “The extra time spent bonding and collaborating with his medical team has been such a blessing,” Hughes wrote on the GoFundMe page on Friday. “It has ensured he is getting the best possible care while he continues to fight.”

    Kyte Baby founder says “it was a terrible mistake”

    The drama has sparked a wave of backlash on social media. Angry mothers have been posting videos on TikTok throwing out their Kyte Baby onesies, calling for a brand boycott, and expressing their support for Hughes. Momfluencers and baby brand founders — including some of Kyte Baby’s biggest competitors — have also donated thousands of dollars to Hughes’ GoFundMe. 

    Liu, meanwhile, has walked back the company’s initial stance in two apology videos she posted to Kyte Baby’s TikTok account this week. In the first one she posted on Thursday — which has garnered more than 2.5 million views — she said she wanted to “sincerely apologize to Marissa for how her parental leave was communicated and handled.” She added Kyte Baby prides itself on being “a family-oriented company” that “treats biological and nonbiological parents equally.” 

    The video was criticized in the comments for being “scripted” and “insincere” and sounding too much like a statement prepared by the company’s lawyer. So Liu posted a second, more candid apology, in which she admitted that “the comments were right, it was scripted. I memorized it, it wasn’t sincere.” She acknowledged that it was her decision to deny Hughes’ request, and that she didn’t “accommodate Marissa fully.”

    Liu herself is a mother of five who launched Kyte Baby after struggling to find baby apparel that would calm her daughter’s eczema. While she didn’t deny that her apology was motivated by a decision to “save face” she said that as human being, mom, and owner of a baby business she wants to set the record straight on the “impact of her actions.” She added that she would review Kyte Baby’s HR policy and noted that the company would continue to pay Hughes’ benefits and keep her position open if she decided to return. The video has racked up more than 5 million views. 

    Kyte Baby did not respond to Business Insider’s request for a comment, but Liu told USA Today that “based on our maternity policy at the time, all parents, whether biological or non-biological, who worked for the company for at least six months, received two weeks of paid maternity time.” She added, “We continue to apologize to both Marissa and our Kyte Baby community for how her maternity leave was handled.”

    Read the original article on Business Insider

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