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Everything You Need To Know About The Kyte Baby Controversy

Everything You Need To Know About The Kyte Baby Controversy

The popular baby clothing brand, Kyte Baby, has come under fire after allegedly firing an employee who had recently welcomed a 22-week-old baby.

Former Kyte Baby employee, Marissa Hughes, allegedly adopted a baby who was born 18 weeks early. Understandably, she rushed to be by her new baby’s side at the hospital. However, she reportedly found out she had been laid off at Kyte Baby for being at the hospital and not at work even after requesting to work remotely.

In the wake of the controversy, social media users spread the word to stop supporting Kyte Baby, a company known for their baby swaddles, sleeper pajamas, and children’s clothing.

Before being allegedly let go, Hughes launched a GoFundMe campaign, announcing that she and her husband, Rawley, were trying to adopt after detailing her struggles with conceiving a child through IVF.

“We have undergone extensive testing, attended hundreds of doctor appointments, taken hundreds of pills and administered at-home injections, completed multiple failed IUIs, gone through IVF, experienced major complications, almost lost my life during surgery, been pregnant three times, and have lost all three of our beautiful babies,” Marissa wrote on the page.

Marissa then kindly asked people to donate to cover adoption agency fees, legal fees, court fees, a birth mother’s living expenses, medical expenses, and counseling expenses.

“We would be extremely grateful for any support and prayers you’re able to provide,” she wrote.

On January 4, 2024, Marissa announced she and Rowland had adopted a premature baby born at 22 weeks gestation who weighed barely over a pound. She revealed the baby was in a NICU unit nine hours away from their family home. Their son, Judah, would have to remain in the NICU until March 2024.

The crowdfunding campaign requesting $50,000 has now raised over $41,500 from donors. Once people began sharing Marissa’s story online, urging others to donate to the cause, reports started to surface that Marissa was terminated from Kyte Baby after she asked to work from home.

A few comments on X alleged that Marissa — who has worked for Kyte Baby for less than a year — was offered two weeks off as per the company policy, which she declined. These users sided with Kyte Baby, noting that they were just following company policy.

Others were not so understanding, calling to boycott the brand.

Kyte Baby, founded by Ying Liu, was met with tons of backlash online, prompting Liu to make a few response videos. In the first video, Liu apologized for Kyte Baby’s actions against Marissa, though in the comments many found the response from Lio to be scripted and “cold.”

“I have been trying to reach out to her to apologize directly as well,” Liu said. “We treat biological and non-biological parents equally. Through both my personal and professional experiences, I have the utmost respect for babies, families, and the adoption community.”

Liu took on the blame for the situation, citing poor communication between Marissa and the Kyte Baby team.

“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 before apologizing to Kyte Baby’s customers as well for any offense.

Liu continued, “I also want to apologize to our Kite community. I want to assure you that, as the company’s owner, I will always stand behind our values. I will be reviewing our HR policy and procedures to make sure to avoid hurting our staff and our community in the future. Finally, we’re truly happy for her adoption and wish the best to her and her family.”

Despite apologizing “profusely,” it has not stopped the controversy.

“Ying, the bottom line is this probably won’t break your company but it broke your OG’s. After the dust settles, you’ll have customers but they won’t be the ones who got excited over the first release of Creek or Woof! You depend on mothers but you’ve shown they can’t depend on you,” one user wrote matter-of-factly.

“Being a nicu nurse, I see the true physical mental and financial burden in so many families. Kyte failed to support her during the hardest time😭,” another commented.

Another wrote, “How can you offer her a position when she returns but not allow her to continue in a remote status? She needed the support now, not later.”

Following this backlash, Liu tried again, with a more vulnerable and open approach without a scripted and canned answer.

In this video, Liu goes “off script,” directly apologizing to Marissa for how she was allegedly treated by Kyte Baby.

Liu admits she was the one who vetoed Marissa’s request to go remote (a decision she deeply regrets), calling the decision “insensitive and selfish.” She also admitted to never reaching out to Marissa directly, despite working onsite together almost every day.

She agrees that she did not accommodate her and now realizes the impacts of her decision-making.

She also claims that she will continue to pay Marissa benefits as well as offer her the remote position she requested. She also claimed that she understands if Marissa does not want to come back to work, but she will continue to pay Marissa remotely for the hours she proposed. She also alleges that the original position is always open to Marissa if and when she comes back.

Though Liu’s second attempt at apologizing seemed way more off the cuff and sincere, many still had bones to pick.

“The right thing to do was given her paid maternity leave despite not qualifying for FMLA. Then figure out to make accommodations after the leave,” one user wrote.

One user pointed out that while Liu claims she treats pregnant parents and adoptive parents the same, there’s one small detail that seems to disprove this.

“My thought is if she would have been physically carrying the child and gone into labor at 22 weeks, would you have made her come back to work next day or in 2 weeks?!” they asked.

One user saw both sides of this messy situation, noting, “As a business person, I do understand getting stuck in the “standard policies & procedures” mode — as I am assuming happened here. But this is a GREAT learning lesson for Kyte and EVERY other business”

Some believed Liu to be sincere, thanking her for her honesty and ready to give Kyte Baby another shot.

“I actually feel like this was very sincere, you’ve done a good job at reflecting and correcting. Not sure how we expect businesses to change and correct policies if we don’t give them the chance to,” they commented.

Another echoed, “I can see your heart here, and I’m sure it’s very difficult to balance business with supporting the people behind it ❤️”

Legally speaking, The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave to covered federal employees.

The Federal Employee Paid Leave Act (FEPLA) — which took effect on Oct. 1, 2020 — allows the substitution of up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave (PPL) for FMLA unpaid leave granted in connection with the birth of an employee’s son or daughter or the placement of a son or daughter with an employee for adoption or foster care.

To be eligible for the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), an employee must work for a covered employer for at least 12 months and have at least 1,250 hours of service in the 12 months before their FMLA leave begins.

If a company chooses to give any paid leave during that FMLA or on top of FMLA is up to that employer, Kyte Baby’s leave politics are not publicly known. However, reports say Hughes wasn’t even asking for paid time off, just to work her normal job remotely, which Kyte Baby denied.

For a company that depends on mothers to keep it in business, it’s pretty disappointing to hear that they allegedly didn’t feel that loyalty should be reciprocated. Let’s hope Kyte Baby (and all other companies!) take this situation as a learning experience and grow to be more progressive when it comes to adoptive mothers and general allowances for parental leave.

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