Back in early July, San Francisco employment law firm Altshuler Berzon LLP posted Facebook and LinkedIn notices seeking women currently or formerly employed at Google for possible inclusion in a planned class-action lawsuit alleging gender pay discrimination.

Several dozen came forward in a matter of weeks. “That’s a pretty high level of dissatisfaction,” said James Finberg, a civil rights lawyer and the partner at the firm in charge of the matter.

Then came this week’s news that Google fired an engineer who wrote a memo questioning women’s suitability for tech jobs, which thrust the ongoing debate around diversity, women and discrimination in Silicon Valley back onto the headlines.

“The phone has been lighting up today,” said Finberg. “We didn’t have any control of that guy and his memo or the media firestorm. We’re going public a lot earlier than we’d hoped or expected.”

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Finberg has heard from more than 70 women so far. He has confirmed four for the planned suit, which he has not yet filed, and several others are considering joining, he said.

The class-action would follow a suit against the tech giant filed earlier this year by the United States Department of Labor, which said it found evidence of an “extreme” gender pay gap at the company. Finberg said the class-action case will draw on the DOL analysis, which found between six and seven standard deviations between wage rates of men and women based on a snapshot of the salaries of 21,000 workers at Google’s Mountain View headquarters.

“How do you explain that?” Finberg asked. “The chance of that occurring randomly is one in 100 million.”

Of the 70-plus women who’ve so far shared their stories of employment at Google with Altshuler Berzon, common threads have emerged, according to Finberg.

“Women are channeled into ‘softer’ jobs, like design or user experience, versus coding,” he said. “Coding is the best compensated.”

He’s also heard concerns that women’s prior salaries were used to calculate their new wages at Google.

“That’s institutionalizing gender discrimination, and it’s against California law,” he said.

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Google did not respond to a request for comment on this or other points in this story. But the company has vehemently disputed the Labor Department’s allegations saying its own analysis “shows no gender pay gap at Google.” The company has also sought to explain how it ensures pay equity across its ranks.

The company scored a victory in July, when a judge ruled that the government’s demand for data on its 21,000 Mountain View workers, which Google had called a “fishing expedition,” was “over broad” and “intrusive.”

Finberg intends to file the equal pay class-action suit “within the next few weeks,” he said. “I think it’s more likely than not.” – Written by