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Kyte Baby CEO apologises after brand fires new mother for asking to work remote from NICU

Kyte Baby CEO Ying Liu issued an apology to a young mother after the brand fired her for asking if she could work remotely from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), having given birth to a micro preemie.

According to their GoFundMe page, Marissa Hughes and her husband Rawley had gone through three years of trying to have a baby on their own, trying everything from in vitro fertilization (IVF) to intrauterine insemination (IUI), and enduring pregnancy losses, and a near-fatal surgery where Ms Hughes briefly clinically died. The pair also served as foster parents before deciding to pursue adoption in October 2023.

That December, they received a call that a baby was available to them for adoption. Their new baby boy Judah was “born at 22 weeks gestation and barely over a pound,” and he was being cared for in the NICU of an El Paso Hospital, nine hours away from their Dallas home.

Wanting to be able to be by her new baby boy’s side, Hughes asked her employer Kyte Baby, if they would allow her to work remotely while her baby was in the NICU.

Kyte Baby informed Hughes that their policy only allowed for two weeks of remote work, making no exceptions after the two weeks and telling her that she would be fired if she didn’t return to work in person.

The couple shared their story on TikTok, receiving support from many viewers who criticised Kyte Baby for being unsympathetic to Hughes and her situation.

After mounting backlash and calls for a boycott of the brand, Ms Liu posted a video addressing the situation on the social media platform.

“I want to hop on here to sincerely apologize to Marissa for how her parental leave was communicated and handled in the midst of her incredible journey of adopting and starting a family,” she said.

She apologised on behalf of their human resources department, continuing: “Kyte Baby prides itself in being a family-oriented company. We treat biological and non-biological parents equally. Through my personal and professional experiences, I have the utmost respect for babies, families, and the adoption community.”

Ms Liu explained that there was a communication breakdown and took accountability for how the company treated Hughes.

She apologised to the couple publicly and any of the company’s staff who felt personally offended by the situation. “It was my oversight that she didn’t feel supported, as we always have intended. As offered to her originally, we would find her a position whenever she decides to return to work,” she added.

The apology received swift backlash on the platform and was later revealed to be scripted in a follow-up video. In a second five-minute-long video, Ms Liu addressed criticisms that her apology was calculated and decided to approach viewers straight from the heart.

“It wasn’t sincere and I’ve decided to go off-script,” she said. “Sincerely, what went wrong is how we treated Marissa and I’m the one who made the decision to veto her request to go remote as she stays in the NICU to take care of her adopted baby. When I think back, that was a terrible decision.”

She continued, “I was insensitive, selfish and was only focused on the fact that her job had always been done on-site and I didn’t see the possibility of doing it remotely. However, having a little bit of sensitivity and understanding would have accommodated her, and I did not accommodate her.”

Ms Liu concluded by praising Hughes for being a “fantastic woman” with “the biggest heart,” and added that she would have a job waiting for her back at Kyte Baby if she still wanted one, this time being able to work remotely if she wanted to.

Hughes has not publicly commented on her story going viral, nor has she acknowledged Ms Liu’s apology videos.

She and Rawley have continued to promote their GoFundMe, focusing on trying to get help to pay Judah’s birth mother’s expenses, as well as financial aid for his long NICU stay, in which he’s expected to stay until March.