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Ex-Worker At Prenatal Testing Firm Claims She Was Fired For Getting Pregnant

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- Pregnancy discrimination is still an issue for women in the workplace, and one former employee claims it even happened to her at a company that's all about helping pregnant women.

Blain Johnson was a senior manager of content marketing at San Carlos-based Natera, which provides preconception and prenatal testing services.

Johnson said even at Natera she had to deal with the politics of pregnancy, and now she is suing for discrimination after she claims she was fired for getting pregnant.

"I think there's so many more stories out there just like this and we just don't hear about them because people need jobs," said Johnson. "When I spoke out about this, I ended up without a job."

Shortly after announcing that she was expecting, Johnson said her responsibilities changed. "I was told I would no longer be managing staff."

Next, she and another pregnant employee were asked to do undercover research. An internal email shows a male senior executive instructing two pregnant women to get their blood drawn at a competitor to see where Natera had "knowledge gaps."

"I was pretty appalled that they were asking me to use my son as a vehicle for market research," said Johnson.

After taking her maternity leave, Johnson claims she was demoted. "I thought there must be some mistake there's no way they're demoting me," said Johnson. "When I left, I was up for promotion. Now I'm suddenly demoted?"

Once she did complain to HR, Johnson said she was fired.

"This was a really sad wakeup call, and especially that it was happening at a women's health company, at a prenatal genetic testing company," she said. "If you can't get equality there, where are you going to find an equal work environment?"

Johnson said having her first child is exhausting enough - now the birth of her son and this lawsuit are difficult to disentangle. She's hoping he'll have a hard time believing it when he's older.

"I hope the story we tell him is, you know, 'Look how we fought for women's rights and people's rights this was the outcome.' But this really ruined my first year with my son."

Natera responded to Johnson's allegations by with a statement saying it can't comment on employee matters, but that Johnson resigned voluntarily and the company wasn't aware of any lawsuit. The statement also said, "The company is committed to creating a diverse and empowered workforce, and to complying with all applicable labor and employment regulations."

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