A radio station that fired a comedian over “inflammatory” jokes on his social media was ordered to give him his job back.
Jad Sleiman, 34, had been working for Philadelphia NPR member WHYY as a reporter for the health and science show, The Pulse, while moonlighting as a stand-up comic on the side, according to Vice.
Sleiman, who is Arab-American and raised in a Muslim family, based a number of his jokes on his experiences of his background, and his experiences in the Middle East during his time in the U.S. Marine Corps in addition to sex, politics, and racism.
According to Philadelphia Magazine, Sleiman had a doctor’s note that allowed him to work from home for the station due to his multiple sclerosis. Someone at the radio station became aware of his Instagram account, where he shares videos of his comedy under a stage name. Sleiman reportedly explained to management that performing as a comedian didn’t affect him the same way working in the office did.
Senior management then took a deeper look at the sets Sleiman was sharing and deemed the content as “egregious” with “sexual connotations, racial connotations, and misogynistic information” that violated the company’s social media policy, per case documents Sleiman uploaded online.
Sleiman was fired last January without warning.
Some of the jokes that the radio station introduced into evidence were titled, “Even Woke People Kind of Hate Us,” “Pussy Transplant,” “Went to Chinese Whore House,” “Kind of Racist,” and “Trump vs Muslims vs Jews.”
“They called me racist, sexist, every name in the book,” wrote Sleiman on Reddit, adding that the station attempted to deny him unemployment benefits.
“They cut off my health insurance the same day despite the fact that I rely on expensive MS drugs to be able to walk and they went so far as to delete every single story I had done over five years to prevent me getting another job," he said.
He was able to enter litigation against the station with the help of SAG-AFTRA’s grievance lawyers, who claimed he had been fired without due process, per Rolling Stone.
Arbitration hearings were held in August and October last year, reports Philadelphia Magazine. Legal briefs from both sides were accepted on Dec. 1, and in the final ruling held on Dec. 29, the arbitrator ruled in favor of Sleiman.
WHYY was ordered to give Sleiman his job back at the station, including back pay.
Arbitrator Lawrence S. Coburn declared some of Sleiman’s jokes were actually funny but did acknowledge which parts of them could be “interpreted as inflammatory” because of the “vulgar language” being used. However, the arbitrator also told Sleiman to delete any content WHYY deemed inappropriate, which he has reportedly done.
In a statement sent to Philadelphia Magazine, WHYY says they are exploring options to appeal.
“While we do not agree with all of the arbitrator’s conclusions, we certainly accept the arbitrator’s decision that Mr. Sleiman needs to permanently remove all inflammatory or offensive social media posts as a condition of any future employment at WHYY,” read the statement.
Sleiman has since relocated to New York City, where he says he had been doing stand up “full time.”
“I’ve booked more and better shows than ever, getting actual club spots, getting my jokes in front of millions online. I’m biking 30 miles a day all across a dope city making very funny friends and getting pussy occasionally,” he wrote on Instagram in a post deleted shortly before publishing time.
“No one can put hate in your heart. Never apologize, always fight. Extremists always lose because they’re by definition a minority. We just have to stop pretending they have a point. SAG-AFTRA knocked it out of the park, the judge found my jokes funny. No homo but very few people get to even pursue a dream so i thank muslim god for his blessings and please come to whatever bar show i’m booked on.”