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Mom behind Kyte Baby boycott: 'I was willing to work from the NICU'

Marissa Hughes speaks up for the first time since the story about how she was treated as an employee started a boycott of the Kyte Baby brand.
Marissa Hughes is pictured next to her husband and child.
Posted at 5:25 PM, Jan 23, 2024

Marissa Hughes, the woman behind the massive boycott against the clothing brand Kyte Baby, held her first media interview Monday, explaining in detail what happened.

The whole ordeal started last week.

After struggling to become pregnant, Hughes and her husband created a GoFundMe page in March to raise funds to care for an adopted baby who had been born prematurely at 22 weeks, weighing just one pound, and had to be placed in the NICU.

As an employee of Kyte Baby, Hughes asked for time off from her in-person job as a studio coordinator, and the brand agreed to give her two weeks of paid leave. But that was not enough time, as her newborn would still be in the NICU after the two-week leave, so she asked if she could work remotely after the two weeks.

The company responded to her request by denying her the extra time off and terminating her job if she was not able to work in person after her leave.

"It was never my intention to quit — I was willing to work from the NICU!" Hughes told TODAY in an exclusive interview. "I did tell them, 'This is a slap in the face ... My child is fighting for his life.'"

It didn't take long before the story went viral, with many moms across the U.S. coming forward in Hughes' favor. Days later, Kyte Baby's founder, Ying Liu, issued two apologies on TikTok, saying she wanted to "sincerely apologize to Marissa for how her parental leave was communicated and handled in the midst of her incredible journey of adoption and starting a family," and  explained how Kyte Baby "prides itself on being a family-oriented company" that treats "biological and nonbiological parents equally."

After the apology, Kyte shared a statement with TODAY, saying Hughes had been denied remote work by mistake, and that she had “declined” the company’s offer to return to work. Hughes tells TODAY that this is just not how things went down. 

According to the publication, Hughes' managers originally agreed to let her "work remotely and part-time while her son was in the hospital," but then shortly after, she was fired. 

"I was told, 'Hey, unfortunately, we won't be able to (make this arrangement) and for that reason, we will take this as your resignation,'" Hughes told TODAY. "I said, 'I'm not resigning and I'm willing to work ... It was never my intention to quit,'" Hughes said. “They were stumbling... Then they said, ‘We don’t want you to think you’re doing the wrong thing by choosing Judah.’"

Hughes told the network that she won't go back to Kyte Baby because she doesn't think it would be a healthy work environment. 

"It's important for people to know that both biological and adoptive parents are families," Hughes told TODAY. "Companies should recognize that children and families always come before career and that flexibility may be required when life gets hard. That's compassion."