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Democratic congresswomen moved quickly this week in an attempt to counter a Supreme Court ruling on equal pay. On Tuesday, the court said an employee could not bring a pay discrimination case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission because of discrimination that occurred years earlier. But the 5-4 ruling came with an unusual vocal dissent by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court's only female member. "In our view," she said, speaking for herself and the other three dissenters, "the court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination."

A group of seven House members, led by Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-3rd District, agreed, declaring in a statement, "The Supreme Court effectively rolled back efforts to ensure equal pay."

The court's decision, they said, "completely ignores the reality of the workplace and is based on the illogical conclusion that a victim of pay disparity will be able to document - despite the typical office secrecy over income - a discriminatory difference in the salaries within six months. It completely overlooks that a victim may be afraid to file a complaint."

They are pushing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would allow victims the right to back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for intentional wage discrimination. They also will try to ensure that people who have been victims of wage discrimination would not be penalized because of time limitations.

In addition, House and Senate members - including some men - will introduce new legislation to clarify the intent of the Civil Rights Act in regard to pay discrimination.

The act says that any charge must be filed within 180 days "after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred." The Supreme Court ruled this week that the 180 days begins on the date an employer makes the initial pay-setting decision. But opponents want the time to run from the date an employee gets a check with discriminatory pay, making it easier for potential victims to seek help.


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