Texas-based Baby Clothing Company CEO Issues Apologies After Denying Remote Work Request for Employee with Baby in NICU

New York – The CEO of Texas-based baby clothing company Kyte Baby has issued two apologies after denying a remote work request by an employee whose baby was admitted into a neonatal intensive care unit.

In late December, Marissa Hughes, a worker at Kyte Baby, and her partner adopted a baby boy who was born after only 22 weeks of gestation. The baby weighed only a little over a pound at birth and had various health concerns. Hughes reached out for financial support through a GoFundMe page to cover the steep NICU costs, as well as adoption and legal fees.

However, when Hughes requested to work remotely while staying with her baby at the NICU, Kyte Baby fired her. This information was shared in a TikTok video posted by Hughes’ sister.

Following the incident, Kyte Baby’s CEO and founder, Ying Liu, issued a public apology in a TikTok video, acknowledging that the company mishandled Hughes’ parental leave request. Liu emphasized that Kyte Baby prides itself on being a family-oriented company.

The initial apology from Liu received backlash on social media for appearing disingenuous. Crisis PR expert James Haggerty noted the corporate tendency to strip humanity out of communications, suggesting that authenticity and genuine ownership are crucial when addressing a mistake.

Hours later, Liu uploaded another TikTok video, admitting her personal responsibility for vetoing Hughes’ remote work request. She expressed regret for her insensitivity and selfishness, recognizing the stress Hughes must have endured in taking care of her newborn in the NICU. Liu acknowledged that it was a terrible mistake on her part.

Although the decision to deny Hughes’ remote work request was legally permissible, it highlights the lack of workplace protections for mothers and pregnant individuals in the United States. With no federal guarantee for paid parental leave, many workers find themselves subject to their employer’s requirements and policies.

While not a substitute for paid maternity leave, the pandemic-driven remote work landscape has provided some flexibility for working mothers to care for their loved ones while remaining in the labor force. Remote and hybrid work schedules are preferred by a majority of full-time working women with children under the age of 18, as indicated by a survey conducted by Bankrate.

Exiting the workforce to take care of children full-time may not be financially viable for families, especially considering the current economic challenges such as inflation and rising prices. For women, exiting the workforce comes with steep individual financial costs, including the forfeiture of earnings and retirement income, according to a report from the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau.

Kyte Baby has stated that they are revising their maternity leave policy as a result of this incident.

The incident involving Kyte Baby underscores the importance of authenticity and accountability in maintaining trust with consumers, particularly in a brand that promises to understand and support motherhood. The company will need to demonstrate genuine remorse and a commitment to fulfilling its promises in order to regain forgiveness from its customers. The response from moms, who form a sensitive consumer base, will be crucial in determining the future of this beloved brand.

Further workplace protections and policies are needed to support parents in the United States, especially in terms of paid parental leave. The lack of a federal program for this guarantee means that parents often have to rely on their employers’ policies and requirements, leaving them vulnerable to potential discrimination or unfavorable treatment.

The story of Marissa Hughes and Kyte Baby serves as a reminder of the ongoing challenges faced by working parents, particularly mothers, and highlights the need for comprehensive support and protection in the workplace.