In contrast to all the “glamorous” cases on the U.S. Supreme Court’s plate this term — and there are many hot-button constitutional questions — a “homely” challenge, in the words of one litigator, could transform the landscape of job bias litigation in this country.

The homeliness of Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products Inc., No. 99-536, is certainly not in its facts: A 57-year-old factory supervisor, fired after 40 years of service, sues his employer for age discrimination. But it can be seen in the plain, everyday, yet fundamental, questions of proof that the justices now face.