The Bush administration has threatened to veto the legislation, pushed almost entirely by Democrats.
The House voted 225-199 to effectively remove the statute of limitations for pay discrimination lawsuits for longtime company employees, repudiating a decision by the high court's five most conservative justices.
"Discrimination has no place in our law, no place in our hearts and no place because of technicalities," said Rep. Robert Andrews, D-N.J.
The Supreme Court voted 5-4 on May 29 to throw out a Goodyear employee's complaint that she earned thousands of dollars less than her male counterparts because of discrimination.
Lilly Ledbetter, a supervisor at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.'s plant in Gadsden, Ala., sued right before she retired. She ended a 19-year career making $6,500 less than the lowest-paid male supervisor, and claimed earlier decisions by her supervisors kept her from making more.
The court said she had waited too long to sue. Under the justices' decision, which they said was based on congressional legislation, an employee must sue within a 180-day deadline of a decision involving pay if the employee thinks it involved race, sex, religion or national origin.
That opens the door for corporations to discriminate, Democrats said. "If you can get away with it for 180 days, you're home free," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chair of the House Education and Labor Committee.
The Democrats' legislation would allow employees to sue within 180 days of their last affected paychecks. Senate Democrats are working on a similar bill.
Ledbetter, who will not be helped by the legislation, said she hopes it helps other people. "I just want to open the doors for women in the future so they can be treated fairly," she said in an interview.
The White House has threatened to veto the bill, and has enough votes in the House to make it stick.
The legislation "would allow employees to bring a claim of pay or other employment-related discrimination years or even decades after the alleged discrimination occurred," the White House said.
"Employers would be forced to defend against an avalanche of decades-old, frivolous claims. The anticipated increase in legal and record- keeping costs could be staggering," said Jay Timmons, the National Association of Manufacturers' senior vice president for policy and government relations.
House Republicans also said the measure was designed to benefit trial lawyers — a Democratic constituency — by giving them a new forum for thousands of lawsuits.
"Trial lawyers, you can be sure, are salivating at this prospect," said Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon of California, the ranking Republican on the Education and Labor Committee.
"The majority on the Supreme Court bent over backwards, ignoring both precedent and simple common sense, to rob (Ledbetter) of her right to equal treatment in the workplace," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said. "The legislation passed today remedies that inequity and once again makes it possible for victims of discrimination to take their cases to court and receive fair hearings and just compensation."