NEW YORK - A record number of Muslim workers are complaining of employment discrimination, from co-workers calling them terrorist or Osama to employers barring them from wearing headscarves or taking prayer breaks, a leading US newspaper reported Friday. Such complaints were increasing even before frictions erupted over the planned Islamic centre in New York City, with Muslim workers filing a record 803 such claims in the year ended Sept. 30, 2009, The New York Times said. That was up 20 percent from the previous year and up nearly 60 percent from 2005, according to federal data. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has found enough merit in some of the complaints that it has filed several prominent lawsuits on behalf of Muslim workers. Last month, the commission sued JBS Swift, a meatpacking company, on behalf of 160 Somali immigrants, saying supervisors and workers had cursed them for being Muslim; thrown blood, meat and bones at them; and interrupted their prayer breaks. On September 1, the commission filed a case against Abercrombie & Fitch, the fashionable clothing retailer, accusing it of discrimination for refusing to hire an 18-year-old Muslim because she was wearing a headscarf. And in June, the agency sued a Four Points by Sheraton hotel in Phoenix, asserting that its management had illegally permitted a hostile work environment in which workers called an Iraqi immigrant a camel jockey, mocked him with Arab ululations and taunted him over news items about captured terrorists. (The hotels manager said many of the claims were untrue.) Theres a level of hatred and animosity that is shocking, Mary Jo ONeill, regional attorney of the EEOCs Phoenix office, was quoted as saying. Ive been doing this for 31 years, and Ive never seen such antipathy toward Muslim workers. Although Muslims make up less than 2 percent of the United States population, they accounted for about one-quarter of the 3,386 religious discrimination claims filed with the EEOC last year, the report said. Complaints filed by Jews rose slightly in fiscal 2009, while complaints filed by Catholics, Protestants, Sikhs and Seventh-day Adventists declined. Claims of race, sex and age discrimination also fell. We can go back in history and find other times when there were hot emotional and political tensions over religion, said Michael Zimmer, co-author of several books on employment discrimination and a law professor at Loyola University in Chicago. Right now, there is a lot of heat as to the Muslims. Mohammad Kaleemuddin, a Pakistani immigrant who drove trucks for the American war effort in Iraq for three years, said that while he was working for a construction company in Houston, his supervisor and several co-workers called him Osama, al Qaeda, Taliban, and terrorist. Halla Banafa filed a claim with the commission after she was turned down at age 18 for a job stocking merchandise at an Abercrombie Kids store in Milpitas, California, in Silicon Valley. According to the EEOC, the manager made a note of not Abercrombie look on the interview form. I never imagined anyone in the Bay Area would reject me because of my head scarf, Ms Banafa said. Federal law requires employers to accommodate hija-bs as well as prayer breaks and other practices based on sincere religious beliefs unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer.