Jan 24, 2024 - News

Backlash hits North Texas-based Kyte Baby

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Kyte Baby, a popular baby clothing company based in Tarrant County, is facing intense public backlash after denying a new mother's request to work from home while her adopted baby was in neonatal intensive care.

Why it matters: The public relations disaster at the woman-owned company exemplifies how the lack of paid leave policies in the U.S. leaves mothers scrambling, Emily Peck of Axios Markets reports.

  • Many parents have posted on TikTok, Facebook and Instagram that they regret buying from Kyte Baby and will boycott the company.

The big picture: Southlake resident Ying Liu, who grew up in China and has a doctoral degree in economics, founded Kyte Baby in 2014 after seeing that clothing made of bamboo fabric helped alleviate her baby daughter's chronic eczema.

  • "The name is very purposeful. It symbolizes the whimsical activity of flying a kite, which is meant to evoke a feeling of innocence, freedom and a return to nature," Liu told DFW Child in 2021.

The irony: Kyte Baby is now being criticized for not supporting one of its own employees who was going through a tough time as a parent.

What happened: Marissa Hughes of Haslet worked in marketing at Kyte Baby for less than a year when she and her husband adopted a baby boy, born prematurely, at 22 weeks.

  • Hughes could've taken two weeks for maternity leave if she committed to a six-month contract upon her return, according to the statement Kyte sent to Axios.
  • Given her son's situation, Hughes said she didn't know if she could come back in person, and proposed a remote option. She was denied.
  • Kyte said she "opted to leave."

What they're saying: "This was a terrible decision," Liu said in her second apology video last week, where she acknowledged the first one "wasn't sincere."

  • Liu said she was the one who vetoed Hughes' request. "I was insensitive, selfish, and only focused on the fact that her job had always been done on-site."
  • The company would review its policy and procedures and come up with something better, she said. "We need to set the example because we are in the baby business."

State of play: The U.S. requires an unpaid parental leave option — not paid leave — only after an employee has worked at a company of a large enough size for more than a year. Hughes wasn't eligible.

  • In Texas, paid parental leave is left up to the employer — and leave plans in the private sector vary widely in terms of what they cover, if they exist at all.
  • Kyte said it offers two weeks of paid leave to those at the company for less than a year, and four weeks for employees with a year or more under their belt — provided they agree to come back for at least six months.

Zoom out: In most developed countries, Hughes would've had paid leave as a government benefit instead of fighting to work from home just two weeks after adopting a child.

  • Canada, for example, offers standard leave for up to 35 weeks and extended leave for up to 61 weeks for eligible parents.
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