New York: Vishal Garg, the Indian-origin CEO of US-based homeownership firm, who recently laid off 900 employees over a Zoom call and triggered widespread outrage, is taking time off from the company as it looks to build a “positive culture”, according to media reports.

Garg’s leave is also effective immediately, according to a Friday email from the company’s board of directors. Day-to-day operations will be taken over by the company’s CFO Kevin Ryan, the CNN reported. is hiring a third party firm to do a “leadership and cultural assessment”, whose recommendations “will be taken into account to build a long-term sustainable and positive culture” at the company, it said on Friday, citing an email from the digital mortgage company’s board.

On December 1 over a Zoom call that lasted less than three minutes, Garg abruptly fired more than 900 employees, about 9 per cent of the company’s workforce.

“If you’re on this call, you are part of the unlucky group that is being laid off.”

“Your employment here is terminated, effective immediately,” he told the employees.

Garg, who is in his mid-40’s, cited market efficiency, performance and productivity as the reason behind the firings. In a later post on the professional network Blind, he accused the fired employees of “stealing” from their colleagues and customers by being unproductive and only working two hours a day.

The abrupt layoffs triggered widespread criticism and subsequently three top Better employees resigned from the company, news website reported.

Garg later apologised to staff, saying he failed to show the appropriate amount of respect and appreciation for individuals who are affected, and for their contributions to Better, it said.

Garg’s temperament has been an issue repeatedly in the past. He has called a top investor sewage and told employees that rather than take Indigenous Peoples’ Day off, their time was better served earning the company capital, and therefore our freedom , the report said.

Better, a digitally oriented fintech startup based in New York, offers a range of creative services in areas like mortgage lending and title and homeowners insurance. The company had just been listed as LinkedIn’s top US startup in September, the second year in a row it received the designation.

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