For those of you who may not have been following, Kyte Baby (purveyor of fancy bamboo sleepers) has been under fire this week. Kyte Baby employee Marissa was hoping to work remotely while her premature newborn, whom she’d recently adopted, was in the NICU out of state. When the new mom reached out to her employer to ask for time off, they told her she could have two weeks. When she then asked if she could continue to work remotely after that, as her baby was going to be in the NICU until at least March, they fired her. After customer backlash, the owner of Kyte Baby released two apologies — one scripted (below) and one unscripted. Neither has satisfied Kyte Baby customers.
A company dedicated to babies that is not supportive of mothers and their newborns? Wow.
Legally, Kyte Baby was not in the wrong. The employee was not eligible for any sort of legal leave such as FMLA. She had only been with the company for nine months, and they did not have to offer her anything. Her position was on-site and in-person; she had not worked remotely. However, this is what happens when companies make decisions and do not consider the humanity behind the employees. The owner said since the position had always been on-site, she couldn’t see a way where it could be done remotely.
That’s ridiculous. There are so many other options before firing someone. As a working mom and manager myself, she could have moved her in-person duties around the team and found other work for her to do. In the meantime, she could’ve also given her an option for unpaid leave, or she could have moved her to part-time doing remote work. There is always a solution for someone who is willing to find it. Even more egregious, Marissa said that when she requested time off, someone reportedly mentioned that they didn’t know why she needed so much leave since she had not actually given birth. Um, WHAT?!
I know from experience that NICU life is stressful — I spent time in the NICU with my own preemie, and every day stretched endlessly, with the tiniest milestone feeling insurmountable. There are so many machines and alarms always going off because your baby wiggled and now the monitors think he’s flatlining. When we were finally allowed to hold him, we were warned to not do it too long or we would tire him out.
Why has this struck so much public outrage? There are a few reasons. One, Kyte Baby customers are moms. Moms of babies who have recently given birth, have adopted, and/or have spent time in the NICU. If any company was going to be baby-friendly, mom-friendly, and flexible, you would think it would be this one.
Another reason is that it continues the ongoing discussion about (lack of) parental leave in this country. The laws are broad. They do not cover every scenario and many would agree that they are not doing nearly enough to support families. This is where an employer can come in, especially a CEO, and make a decision about the culture and direction of their company. Are you a family-friendly company? Do you care about your employees? If so, you should put people first before your profits. If her mother had been dying, would Kyte Baby have found a workable way for her to proceed?
So, in my opinion, the outrage is deserved. My kids are well past the age for baby bamboo sleepers, but I personally would not be putting my dollars into a company where families and employee’s personal lives mean so little.