Kyte Baby CEO under fire for denying employee remote work while her baby was in NICU

Kyte Baby CEO under fire for denying employee remote work while her baby was in NICUKyte Baby CEO under fire for denying employee remote work while her baby was in NICU
via TikTok/@kytebaby, Facebook/Marissa Hughes
Michelle De Pacina
January 22, 2024
The CEO of Kyte Baby, a Texas-based baby clothing company, issued two apologies after an employee, Marissa Hughes, was fired for requesting remote work while her adopted baby was in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). 
CEO’s apology: The CEO, Ying Liu, initially apologized in a scripted TikTok video but faced backlash for its perceived insincerity. Several hours later, Liu posted another video with an off-script apology, admitting her decision to deny the remote work request and expressing regret for the insensitivity and selfishness of her choice. 
“I was insensitive and selfish,” Liu said. “I cannot imagine the stress that she had to go through not having the option to go back to work and having to deal with a newborn in the NICU. Thinking back, it really was a terrible mistake… I understand if you don’t want to come back to work anymore, but we will continue to pay you as if you were working remotely for us for those hours you proposed until you’re ready to come back. Your original position is always open for you.”
Company policy: Kyte Baby stated that Hughes, who worked for about seven months, qualified for two weeks of paid maternity leave but was unable to sign a required six-month contract due to her son’s situation. The situation has led the company to now revise its maternity leave policy. 
“She did propose a remote option for her job, but given that her role was largely on-site, at that time, we did not feel that the proposed plan would fulfill the responsibilities of her current position,” Kyte Baby told CNN. “We told her we understood her situation and informed her that her job would be here if and when she opted to return.”
Hughes’ response: Hughes, who has since acknowledged Liu’s apology, feels that returning to the company would be inappropriate. However, she says she is glad to hear about Kyte Baby’s efforts to review and revise company policies to benefit current and future employees. 
About Hughes’ baby: In December, Hughes and her partner adopted a baby boy born after only 22 weeks of gestation. The infant, weighing “barely over a pound” at birth, faced various health concerns. The couple sought crowdsourced funds through a GoFundMe campaign to cover the significant NICU costs and various adoption and legal fees associated with the adoption. They have raised more than $88,000, as of this writing. 
Nationwide parental leave policies: The incident highlights the relative lack of workplace protections for mothers and pregnant individuals in the U.S., as parental leave policies vary and there is no federal guarantee for paid parental leave. The flexibility of remote work during the pandemic has been crucial for working mothers, but challenges persist in ensuring support and financial viability for caregivers.
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