A new mom found herself looking at being jobless after her employer denied her request to go remote to tend to her baby's health
Marissa Hughes was working for Kyte Baby when she adopted a premature baby boy, who has a long-term NICU stay ahead of him
Hughes requested her employers to allow her to work remotely as she navigates her son's medical issues and relocates to be with him nine hours away, to which they informed her they could only accommodate two weeks
Kyte Baby, a brand selling bamboo children's sleepwear and accessories, issued two apologies after their online community called them out over how they treated their employee
A new mom went through a rollercoaster of emotions after finding out she'd finally get the baby she'd been dreaming of. What she didn't expect was that her job would contribute to those intense and complicated feelings.
Marissa Hughes went through years of fertility healthcare while trying to have a baby with her husband Rawley, as detailed on the couple's GoFundMe page, which initially was in support of their fertility journey, "Three years of that journey included in vitro fertilization (IVF), Intrauterine insemination (IUI), pregnancy losses, and a near-fatal surgery where Hughes briefly clinically died. The couple served as foster parents throughout this process and after some time, they came to terms with the need to explore other options for growing their family.
The couple revealed they were pursuing adoption in October and in December, they got the call that a baby was available to them, nine hours away from their Dallas home in El Paso. Son Judah was "born at 22 weeks gestation and barely over a pound," per the family's GoFundMe.
With the joy of welcoming the baby they'd wanted for so long came the logistics of making it all happen. Hughes contacted her employers, Kyte Baby, to ask that they grant her the ability to work remotely as she stayed by her baby boy's side.
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Kyte Baby then told Hughes that their policy was to allow two weeks of remote work and if she could not return to the workplace at that point, her job would be terminated.
The backlash and calls for a boycott of the brand were so extreme that the brand responded, with CEO Ying Liu posting a video addressing the situation on TikTok.
"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 began.
Claiming she had reached out to Hughes to apologize for the HR blunder, Liu continued, "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.”
Liu went on to take accountability for the situation and explaining it was a breakdown in communication.
“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 continued, apologizing to Marissa and Rawley before apologizing to Kyte Baby’s customers as well for any offense.
The response, which Liu later admitted was scripted, was slammed for being a canned and calculated response to a very human, emotional situation and didn't rise to the wrongdoing that occurred.
In a second video, Liu tried speaking off the cuff as she addressed the situation once again. "It wasn't sincere and I've decided to go off-script."
"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," Liu said.
"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 possibilty of doing it remotely. However, having a little bit of sensitivity and understanding would have accommodated her, and I did not accommodate her."
Liu concluded her nearly five-minute video by sharing appreciation for Hughes and calling her a "fantastic woman" with "the biggest heart."
"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 that you proposed until you're ready to come back," Liu said, adding, "And your position, your original position, is always open for you when you come back."
Hughes has not publicly commented on the situation as it has unfolded. The couple's GoFundMe has switched gears to focus on helping with expenses for Judah's birth mother, as well as navigating expenses around his NICU stay, where the infant is expected to be until around March.
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